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Council runs up £40k bill for a rebranding dubbed 'futile'

By Rebecca Black

At least £40,000 and counting is being spent on rebranding just one of our new councils, it can be revealed.

But the cost of transforming North Down and Ards District Council to East Coast Council has been defended by the chief executive as "considerably" lower than amounts set aside by other authorities.

Last week North Down and Ards District Council voted narrowly to rename itself the East Coast Borough Council.

It is understood that consultants came up with 72 potential names, which councillors narrowed down to six before settling on East Coast. These were: Ards North Down; East Coast; North County Down; North Down and Ards; LoughLands, and Peninsula.

The council voted by a majority of just one for the name East Coast. This process is costing £23,400.

A new coat of arms is also being designed at the cost of £16,000, while a decision over a mayoral chain for the presiding officer has not yet been decided. The former North Down council and Ards council each have their own mayoral chains, but councillors will have to decide whether one of these can be used or a completely new one created.

In a statement last week the council said it was given the name North Down and Ards District Council by the Department of the Environment as part of the Local Government Reform process.

It decided to find a different name and has now applied to the department to become known by the new name from next April.

However, ratepayers have voiced fury at the name, arguing that it does not reflect the area.

An online petition with more than 140 signatures has already been created.

North Down councillor Austen Lennon has even written to Environment Minister Mark H Durkan asking for the process to be halted.

Mr Lennon blasted the rebranding as "an exercise in futility".

"I can guarantee that in 10 years they will change it again because they will realise East Coast means nothing to anybody," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Americans will say: 'East Coast Council? Where's that?'

"It's ludricrous. North Down has spent millions putting North Down on the map for tourists around the world over the last 20 years, marketing to let Americans know where we are. Ards must have spent plenty on this, too. We may as well as have poured that money down the drain because no one will know where East Coast is."

Mr Lennon said ratepayers did not like the name, and were even angry about it.

"They said they consulted on it, but I have yet to meet one businessman or anyone come back and say they were consulted," he said.

North Down and Ards District Council chief executive Stephen Reid defended the use of money, and said he understands the amount spent was "significantly lower" than what other councils had spent.

"The £23,400 is not just for coming up with the name," he said. "It was for the market research that was done, consultation, workshops, and it will also cover the cost of developing a logo for a corporate identity, and then the implementation plan for it to be deployed on all the signage and stationary. So it is a composite fee, not just a name."

Mr Reid confirmed that the cost of the council's new coat of arms will be up to £16,000.

"That's a separate piece of work," he insisted. "The College of Arms in London creates the crests for the coat of arms for new councils. That will cost between £15,000-£16,000. A first draft has already been looked at by the council and I would be hopeful we will have that ready by February."

Turning to what chain the presiding councillor will wear, Mr Reid said no decision had been taken yet.

He added that he had not received any adverse reaction to the East Coast name.

"It's about a new beginning and a new start, rather than being seen as two councils coming together. We are comfortable that it represents good value for money."

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