Northern Ireland over-governed over-governed, but this has nothing to do with the number of councils. Seven is far fewer than areas of comparative size — comparing as it does to 32 in Scotland and 34 in the Irish Republic. Comparatively, the NILGA suggestion of 15 would be correct correct number for Northern Ireland.
But this is not about number crunching. It is about value for the ratepayer. The proposals will mean that most people’s bins will be collected by officials working 50 miles away, most of our planning decisions will be taken by representatives with no feel or interest for our local community and town centre regeneration will be handled by people in another town centre an hour’s drive away. Does this represent good value in return for our rates bills which will go up dramatically to service this all?
Furthermore, the government’s alleged ‘savings’ in overall bureaucracy remain completely unexplained.
Indeed, it now seems that changes which were supposed to see the overhaul of unaccountable public bodies (including quangos) will be handled by the public servants themselves. Is anyone seriously suggesting public servants will go for reductions reductions in layers of bureaucracy if it risks putting themselves out of work?
The NILGA proposals based on 15 councils and genuine savings represent best value for the ratepayer from which we all gain. Government proposals based on seven councils and unclarified bureaucratic changes represent a political carve-up in which we are all pawns. Ratepayers should not fall for this government spin.
Councillor Tony Hill, Alliance Party, Deputy Mayor, North Down