Patricia Wallace (5/12) has fallen victim to government propaganda suggesting that a reduction in the number of councils automatically means a reduction in bureaucracy and cost.
Precisely the opposite is the case. The public needs to hear this truth.
Firstly, Ms Wallace is entirely wrong about the number of councils. 7 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 the correct number for Northern Ireland.
But this is not about number crunching. It is about value for the rate payer. 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. For this level of ‘service’, we can expect our rates bill to go up dramatically. Is Ms Wallace suggesting that this represents value for the rate payer?
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. This will hardly see vast reductions in the layers of bureaucracy! Does Ms Wallace think turkeys vote for Christmas?
The NILGA proposals based on 15 councils and genuine savings represent best value for the rate payer from which we all gain. Government proposals based on 7 councils and unclarified bureaucratic changes represent a political carve-up in which we are all pawns. Ms Wallace should be more responsible than to fall for the Government spin.
Cllr Tony Hill
Deputy Mayor of North Down