Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Defaulting again to dysfunction

The reform of local government was hailed as potentially delivering two benefits. One was a more streamlined system of administration, replacing the existing 26 local authorities with 11 super-councils.

With fewer officials and councillors there would also be a cost saving and the councils would further benefit from economies of scale.

However, it seems that it will be some time before we can see if those benefits will indeed be delivered. For the very issue that led to local government reform in the 1970s - gerrymandering - has again raised its ugly head and is threatening the whole enterprise. There is a dispute between the partners in the power-sharing Executive over the drawing of boundaries for the Belfast super-council, with nationalists and unionists both seeking to gain an advantage. This is further ammunition for the many critics of the Executive who claim that it is dysfunctional. It appears that every time there is a hard decision to be made, the default position among the parties is one of intransigence. We have seen it over education and policing and justice in particular. Now it is over the detail of a policy of reform that all parties agree is necessary.

Put simply, this is a failure of governance. While it is understandable that the parties will disagree over new boundaries, it is not forgivable that they should still be squabbling over the issue at this late stage in the reform programme. Now the reforms may have to be postponed to allow elections to take place to the existing 26 councils. That is a farcical situation. Holding elections to councils which will soon cease to exist is an obvious waste of money. So too is delaying the formation of the new super-councils. The only thing certain in the next few years is that funding for public spending will be greatly restricted as the UK seeks to balance its books. Meanwhile those in power in this part of the UK are throwing money away.


From Belfast Telegraph