Tag Archives: reform

Super Councils for Dummies

The reform of local government in Northern Ireland sees the replacement of the 26 districts created in 1973 with a smaller number of super districts.

The review process began in 2002 with proposals for either seven or 11 districts made before it was suspended in 2010. On March 12 2012 the Northern Ireland Executive published its programme for government which included a commitment to reduce the number of councils in Northern Ireland to 11. The first elections were on May 22 2014.

From April 1 2015 the new councils took over. The new councils provide the same services as previous councils however they have a number of new powers and responsibilities which are outlined in the table below.

Planning

· Local development plan functions

· Development control and enforcement

Roads

· Off-street parking
Local economic development

· Start a Business Programme and Enterprise Shows

· Youth entrepreneurship (such as Prince’s Trust and Shell Livewire)

· Social entrepreneurship

· Investing for Women

· Neighbourhood renewal funding relating to enterprises initiatives

Local Tourism

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Heritage

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Urban regeneration and community development

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

Other services

· Small-scale tourism accommodation development

· Providing business support including business start-up advice, along with training and delivery of customer care schemes

· Providing advice to developers on tourism policies and related issues

There are two overriding key benefits to the reform of councils in Northern Ireland.

1. Improved service provision

Councils are being given new responsibilities and a broader range of powers. Combined with partnership working with other Departments and agencies operating in their areas, this will make councils stronger, more effective and flexible to local need. They will be able to better co-ordinate service delivery and avoid duplication, leading to more efficient, high quality services.

2. Long-term cost savings

The potential long term financial benefits are substantial as amalgamating 26 councils into 11 brings with it economies of scale. The costs and benefits of reform are currently being examined to take account of the 2015 programme timetable, the sector’s Improvement, Collaboration and Efficiency proposals and the current economic climate in which reform is now being taken forward.

Councillors have been reduced in number from 582 to 462, each receiving an allowance of £14,200 a year. Those members who hold office such as mayor, deputy mayor or committee chair will also receive a special responsibility allowance.

The following table outlines the new council areas, their location and their electorate.

Council

Where

Who

Fermanagh and Omagh

All of Co. Fermanagh and parts of TyroneBorders Donegal, Leitrim, Cavan and Monaghan

Electorate of 74,414

Derry and Strabane

Includes Co. Londonderry and Tyrone

Borders Co. Donegal

Electorate of 92,593

Mid Ulster

Includes part of Co. Londonderry, Tyrone and Armagh

Borders Monaghan

Electorate of 86,591

Causeway Coast and Glens

Includes part of Co. Antrim and Londonderry Electorate of 88,654

Mid and East Antrim

Part of Co. Antrim

Electorate of 89,832

Antrim and Newtownabbey

Part of Co. Antrim

Electorate of 84,996

Belfast

Belfast City

Electorate of 323,567

Lisburn and Castlereagh

Many of the outer suburbs of Belfast

Electorate of 83,369

North Down and Ards

 

Ards Peninsula, most of Stangford lough and the southern shore of Belfast Lough

Electorate of 102,313

Newry, Mourne and Down

 

Includes Southern Co. Armagh and Co. DownBorders Co. Louth and Monaghan Electorate of 107,233
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Includes parts of Co. Armagh and Down

Electorate 124,996

Map showing the 26 old  local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the 11 new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the 11 new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the existing and new local government districts in Northern Ireland
Map showing the existing and new local government districts in Northern Ireland

If you are unsure as to your new council area and electoral ward, enter your postcode here.

There are fears over minority communities in the new council areas as Stormont’s two main power blocs tighten their grip on local government.

Ten out of the 11 new super councils are dominated either by unionists or nationalists consolidating the green and orange politics of the province. This has given rise to fears that local level politics could cement the divisions which have been evident at Stormont.

Belfast is the only council which remains ‘hung’ where Alliance holds the balance of power between unionists and nationalists.

David Ford, Alliance MLA has said, “As the new councils will have more responsibilities, it is imperative that councillors move beyond the orange and green tribal politics and towards a more inclusive style of governing,”

“Councillors must work together to deliver the best possible services for ratepayers, and council positions must be fairly distributed.”

Arnold Hatch, President of the umbrella councils body, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA), said: “The large parties tend to dominate, whether it’s the west of the province with Sinn Fein or the east of the province with the DUP. That has been the case.

“But at the same time 99% of the decisions which councils have to take are done on a consensual basis and my firm belief is that if councils are given real responsibilities they will knuckle down to that work and these petty arguments over positions will diminish.”

Bill White, chair of polling organisation LucidTalk, said: “I think it is arguable that the boundaries for the new Belfast council were designed in such a way to ensure it would remain a hung council – as predicted by ourselves and many others.

“I think the hope was that there would be more hung councils, in Causeway Coast and Glens, for example, and Mid and East Antrim, but that has not turned out to be the case.”

An interactive map highlighting the difference between the old and new council areas can be found here.