North Down Deputy Mayor Tony Hill has dismissed the outcome of the Review of Public Administration as an unworkable and ill thought-out menu for repartition.
Representing the Alliance Party to NILGA on the issue, Cllr Hill stated: “This was supposed to be a well-thought out, strategic review of public administration for a generation. In fact, competing interests were battling over this announcement until almost the last minute. It doesn’t make sense for either major regional services like health or for local accountability.
“The result is a set of proposals which are simply unsustainable, which effectively re-partition this region, and which are a blatant political buy-off. Both the Alliance Party and NILGA have repeatedly made the point that the future governance of all the citizens of Northern Ireland is too important for perverse political stunts – but no one has listened.
“Seven councils with limited powers are simply unworkable – a position taken by the representatives of all five main parties on NILGA including Sinn Féin. Far from reducing bureaucracy, the result will be yet another layer of ‘quangos’. They will have to make up
for the lack of relationship between a limited number of democratic representatives and their constituents by introducing still more faceless administrators. This is precisely the reverse of the purpose of this review.
“These arrangements will also see the repartition of Northern Ireland, into three green councils in the west and three orange councils in the east. This places a sizeable proportion of the population in areas over which they can never hope to have a fair degree of influence.
“This is a blatant buy-off of Sinn Féin, the only local party to support the seven-council model despite its own Councillors’ protestations. This sort of ‘tribal hand-out’ mentality will be damaging for everyone in the long term, as it serves only to drive people further apart, increasing feelings of fear and alienation among new minority communities.
“Most of the powers being given to Councils would in fact be perfectly applicable to a 15 Council model. This would make Councils much more representative of meaningful local communities and would bring community planning, which is an essential part of any
modernisation, much closer to the people.
“What this proves above all is the need to get our direct misrulers out of Northern Ireland. We must bring back accountable democracy to the people through the restoration of devolution to the Assembly urgently. Local administration will be the only way to ensure all Northern Ireland’s citizens have access to fair, accountable and appropriate structures of government.”