Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The shape of things to come?

The Review of Public Administration isn't one of the world's most exciting things, but the consultation document (1.6mb) launched today by the RPA takes us another step closer to the shakeup of Northern Ireland's local government that it so dearly needs.

Personally I happen to think that somewhere like Northern Ireland with a population of this size could get away with about half a dozen councils, but I think that eleven might be the magic number. This of course would be a rowing back a little from the 7 which was tipped to be the figure a few months ago. Certainly the Alliance Party seemed to think that seven was the number when they opposed it a while back.

If they do go for an 11 council system then the options outlined are:
Strabane, Omagh and Fermanagh
Londonderry and Limavady
Coleraine Ballymoney and Moyle
Dungannon Cookstown and Magherafelt
Ballymena, Larne and Carrick
Antrim and Newtownabbey
North Down and Ards
Belfast
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Down and Newry & Mourne
Craigavon, Banbridge and Armagh

Or
Fermanagh and Omagh
Strabane and Londonderry
Cookstown, Dungannon and Magherafelt
Limavady, Coleraine, Ballymoney and Moyle
Ballymena, Larne and Carrick
Antrim and Newtownabbey
Belfast
North Down and Ards
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Craigavon, Banbridge and Armagh
Down and Newry & Mourne

Or
Omagh and Fermanagh
Strabane, Londonderry and Limavady
Cookstown and Dungannon
Coleraine and Magherafelt
Ballymena, Ballymoney, Moyle and Larne
Antrim, Newtownabbey and Carrick
Belfast
North Down and Ards
Lisburn and Castlereagh
Craigavon and Armagh
Down, Banbridge and Newry & Mourne

I think that the first of these options might be the more likely to succeed - but surely the review should have been able to change existing boundaries and not just be forced with lumping different councils together. For the life of me I fail to see how the Belvoir estate cannot be considered as part of Belfast. As part of single council beside Belfast its just about plausable, but to have somewhere like the Belvoir estate but to have it administered along with Hillsborough and the rest of Lisburn 'City' Council is a little strange.

Of course the divide of unionist vs nationalist councils will always be counted. It seems that a 6:4 unionist to nationalist split with Belfast hanging in the balance is most likely. If only unionists in Belfast would get off their backsides and vote then that race would be much clearer!

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