NI Minister of State confirms 2011 local elections for 26 councils

The BBC notes confirmation from the NI Minister of State, Hugo Swire, MP, that local elections will be held in 2011 for the existing 26 councils.  The decision follows the dysfunctional NI Executive’s semi-detached polit-bureau’s failure to agree on the proposed local government reform.  From the report

Mr Swire said he had written to the first and deputy first ministers confirming local elections in 2011 will be held to the existing 26 councils.

The Minister said: “Like many, I am disappointed that the reorganisation will not now go ahead in 2011, not least because Parliament agreed to postpone the 2009 elections to provide for this.

“Clearly it would be unacceptable for the elections to be further postponed beyond 2011 given that there is no sign of the situation being resolved in the immediate future.

“There is now no option but to hold these elections to the existing 26 councils notwithstanding the fact that their boundaries have not been reviewed since 1992.”

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  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ‘there is no sign of the situation being resolved in the immediate future.’

    Have the assembly actually resolved any issue at all? If the MLAs were being paid by results could they afford a bag of chips between them?

  • Local Government Officer

    Pathetic. Really pathetic.

  • Elections to the present 26 councils were on the DUP agenda back in September 2009. Seems that I nearly got the year right 😉

  • Barnshee

    A criminal disgrace by a bunch of morons– self serving bastards

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Is there general a consesus that the DUP have simply blocked the super councils in order to prevent a nationalist majority in Belfast?

    Presumably the Alliance, who we might expect to give a fair appraisal of this are pointing the finger at the DUP?

  • The Impartial Observer

    I was a young DOE civil servant when the RPA was first announced, I can remember a wise old head in our office confidently predicting “It will never happen, the Assembly and the Executive will never hand all those powers to the Councils. As soon as ministers realize how much power the system gives them they’ll want to keep them!”

    And so it has come to pass! We’re left with a ludicrously top heavy and centralized system of government all because the Minister for Lisburn didn’t want to give up Poleglass as it would have made SF the largest party in Belfast! The RPA will never happen now, it will be quietly dropped, as LGO rightly says above, Pathetic!

  • DC

    I think the re-sizing wasn’t the issue I would like them kept as is with the issue being more about reshaping and reductions in terms of salaries of council officers – the big wigs CEOs etc. Super councils didn’t appeal to me.

    I would ideally like policing done down to this level as well to bind in a sense of proper belonging and kitted out in council / borough logos etc – but as the above commenter clearly points out the assembly doesn’t want this at all.

    This council-led assault would get round the erroneous application of equality workings at the assembly in terms of nationalist and unionist and get to the nub of the issue, which is really a way of better local representation and administration. Equality was one route but let’s face it if West Belfast was given its own district and style of policing and personnel I reckon the locals would opt for it than centralised policing – 50-50 style that only aims for 30% representation anyhow!!

    There are people from local areas who do want to police their area in the knowledge that they might receive a bullet in doing so but are prepared to work for the community to make life better for them – same way as there are still paramilitaries that do so likewise, except they tend to make things worse!

    Over-centralization is right – weak, weak, weak!

  • “As soon as ministers realize how much power the system gives them”

    Perhaps senior civil servants wield more power than Ministers as they regulate the flow of information available to Ministers and MLAs alike.

  • Mrazik

    And probably also the flow of oxegen to the brains of some…

  • The Impartial Observer

    It’s one of the reasons.

    Remember that the DUP objected to the original 7 Council model on grounds of “loss of local identity” and that it would effectively re-partition NI. So when the Assembly was restored the DUP wanted to increase the numbers of councils. Therefore the DUP and SF carried out a sectarian carve up which was to give them 5 councils each, with Belfast delicately balanced. The problems began when the boundary commission recommended bringing Dunmurry, Twindbrook, Poleglass and parts of Castlereagh into Belfast, given the greater likelihood for Nationalists to vote this would almost certainly result in a Nationalist majority in City Hall, the Union Flag taken down and a huge stick for Allister to beat the DUP with!

    The DUP now had to try and get themeselves out of the trap. So Poots began raising red herrings over the loss of rates money from Forestside, insisting that the new councils share HR and purchasing (this was also so the NICS’ hugely expensive HR Connect and Account NI IT systems didn’t find themselves redundant after only a few years of service!) Finally Poots found his dealbreaker in insisting that the Councils themselves pay for the costs of the RPA, as this could only happen with significant rates increases it was never going to be a runner!

    So we are left with a complete disaster! The irony is that there was an easier way for Poots to overcome the Poleglass issue, he could have brought areas like Newtownbreda, Cairnshill and Galwally into Belfast so as to balance off Poleglass. He could have sold this very easily by claiming that he wanted Belfast to expand out to it’s natural boundaries and so have just one local authority responsible for the Belfast Urban Area rather than the current patchwork quilt. This would have made perfect sense from an administrative point of view, Sadly I don’t think Poots is capable of that sort of lateral thinking!

  • Local Government Officer (not Moyle)

    Nevin, you might be right. But seriously – the Assembly had months to take a decision on this.

    Months. Months that could have been used fruitfully to move the agenda forward in a higher gear than first, which is what we were moving in, waiting for a final say so from on high. People are right. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas. But in the main, this was embraced by most, and now?


    I’ll say it again: Pathetic.

  • DC

    Local Government Officer

    There are a lot of turkeys not wanting to vote for Christmas at the moment, cuts and reshaping.

    I’m in favour of a better tiered government, more local government, away from the goings on of the Unionist/Nationalist macro melodramas at Stormont.

    We are the people!

    Ps Keep on throwing those snowballs too because what I have found in the public sector is the higher the salary the more it is taken as a payment in practice suing you to say nothing. The less is said the higher you go up.

    So, feck the hierarchy, feck those careerists and well for good measure feck the polit-bureau too.

  • Sqwert

    Is preventing a nationalist majority in Belfast actually “wrong”?

    Belfast is hardly a naturally nationalist majority conurbation in terms of it’s natural limits, even if “inner city” Belfast may be so.

    Belfast has not been treated as a “normal” city in England or Scotland would be in this regard.

  • just sayin’

    is it not strange that at the local government sector level those same parties WERE able to work their way through things?

  • Cynic

    …………nor perhaps is he willing to rock the gravy trains in Councils like Castlereagh where there are lots of cozy little relationships. Some of the gravy might spill and then where would the DUP be?

  • Cynic

    the fundamental issue is that we have too many councils. Why not abolish the lot ad let the Stormont County Council do its real job?

  • The Impartial Observer

    That is a good point. If you look at Greater Belfast which includes Castlereagh, Newtownabbey and the Dunmurry/Poleglass area then it has a clear Unionist majority. The current Belfast City Council area which was created in 1973, is an artificial creation based on the then popular idea that urban areas should be split between the inner cities and the suburbs. This happened in many other British cities at the same time. For example Manchester was reduced in size with new authority areas such as Trafford and Tameside being carved out of the city, leaving the city council itself as a relatively small area right in the centre of the larger conurbation. Likewise Belfast had Castlereagh, a wholly artificial entity carved out of it’s suburbs.

    In practice this model resulted in a lot of dysfunction as different authoritis webt off and did their own thing instead of working together. So since the 1990’s the trend in the
    UK has been to move back to unitary authorities as they allow single government for the entire area.

    I’m not saying it’s right or wrong that Belfast should be Unionist or Nationalist, my point of view is that of someone who works in “urban governance” and IMHO Belfast should be administering it’s natural boundaries which includes Castlereagh, Dunmurry/Poleglass and possibly Newtownabbey and Dundonald. If the Minister for Lisburn had any gumption then this is the argument he could have used to resolve “The Poleglass Question” however lateral thinking isn’t one of his strongpoints!!

  • I sat in on a recent meeting of Moyle DC and had been at a Coleraine BC some years ago. There appears to be a dearth of independent thought and probably too many decisions/positions taken in advance on a party or partisan basis.

    Also, some council senior officials seem to be doing deals with their counterparts in Stormont and keeping councillors in the dark.

    The under-researched Stephen Nolan wagged the finger at Moyle DC councillors over the negative publicity attached to the Royal visit to Rathlin. The cock-up involved the NIO, a few Moyle DC officials and a local businessman yet there was no mention of the NIO.

    Apparently I attracted the wrath of a senior NIO press officer. She said, “That’s the blogger**” when I left the building and apologised to a media person who’d innocently asked the time. She’d obviously been in a flustered state and told him brusquely, “I can’t tell you!”.

    **Slugger Awards don’t go unnoticed!!

  • Framer

    What happens to the redundancy payments officials and councillors were queuing up for?

  • Local Government Officer

    I think you mean just the councillors, Framer. None of us were queuing up for anything.