Belfast Telegraph

The reform of local councils in Northern Ireland is a blatant DUP - Sinn Fein carve up

By Henry Reilly

Many people are still not aware that the structure of local government is being reformed in a fashion that will make them unrecognisable from the councils that have existed since 1973.

People should be aware and they should be angry at the changes as they will be paying through the nose for them. I was astonished to attend recent budget meetings for my own council last week to see some much needed services being cut while money was being used for departing staff payouts.

It really is becoming more clear by the day that they are an unnecessary set of reforms and a mess that will cost more to run rather than save cash.

If the DUP-Sinn Fein was seriously concerned about saving cash it would have went to chief executives of the existing councils and gave them saving to make which could have been quietly easily done by co-operating with neighbouring councils on joint tenders and bulk purchasing etc.

In my own new council area of Down, Newry and Mourne we will have a council that encompasses areas as diverse as Saintfield in the north to Crossmaglen in the south. These are areas that have very little in common and will have different expectations of what their council should deliver.

The worrying aspect of the new councils is the way they will put distance between the administrations and their people. While other areas of the UK will have, town, parish, district and county councillors the new system here with it massively increased electoral quotas will make it extremely difficult if not impossible for Independents or members of small parties to get elected as councillors.

Anyone looking at the new council boundaries and their modus operandi could be forgiven for believing that they are a DUP-Sinn Fein concoction that will deliver  nothing of value but will deliver another layer of professional politicians that can be whipped into line to do what is good for their respective parties rather than what is good for the people who pay the rates.

The DUP in accepting the new council boundaries has effectively handed control of Belfast City Council over to their Sinn Fein government colleagues with a massive and solidly republican area being moved into the new Belfast Council and a low registration, low turnout Alliance type area in East Belfast being included as a balance.

The new proposed code of conduct and d’Hondt method of filling senior posts will make the new councils sterile, dumbed down bastions of institutionalised sectarian division manned by party apparatchiks and when the massive costs involved in the DUP-Sinn Fein folly start arriving through people’s letter boxes in April 2016, we will have ordinary people Catholic, Protestant and other out on the streets in protest – I hope they will remember who inflicted their new rates bills on them.


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