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Council proposals will destroy hinterlands

With local government reform due before the Assembly shortly, I would urge all parties to abandon the current 11-council model as it is nothing short of a shambles.

Local identity is important to communities, therefore the logical, non-contentious way forward is to base any new councils around our county towns. Failure to do so will create confusion.

However, the 11-council model has the potential to destroy the status of our county towns. Moreover, the proposed new boundaries have no correlation with the parliamentary constituencies.

These proposals do not take into account local community identities, nor will they help build sustainable communities.

David Gavaghan, chief executive of Titanic Quarter, has stated that Belfast also needs to double its population to become an economic powerhouse.

The current 26-council model and the original 15-council model drawn up for local government reform gives Belfast a natural commuter belt and a metropolis known as Greater Belfast. The 11-council model will destroy any possibility of Belfast doubling its population, as Greater Belfast will be carved up to rural areas, thus losing its natural hinterlands.

The transition cost of the mergers is estimated at £118m. Chief executives and councillors will be due receive redundancy packages.

New headquarters will need to be built and rate convergence and the cost of transfer of functions will add many millions to this total, sending rates bills soaring as central government is not making any funds available for these costs.

Let common sense prevail. Leave the councils alone, or go back to the original 15-council model.

TREVOR BELL

By e-mail

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