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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 18:31 GMT
New super-council names announced
Peter Hain
Peter Hain announced proposed changes in November 2005
Belfast City Council is to incorporate areas currently covered by Castlereagh, Lisburn and North Down, under new Boundary Commission proposals.

The number of NI councils is being cut from 26 down to seven in 2009, under government plans announced last year.

The amalgamated council areas proposed will be called Inner East; East; South; West; North West; North East and Belfast Local Government Districts.

Part of Magilligan Strand will go from Coleraine to Derry-based North West.

This is the only significant boundary change from ones announced by the government last year.

Public consultation

Local Government Boundaries Commissioner Dick Mackenzie's proposals will now go out for public consultation.

Map showing new council areas

Mr Mackenzie said the names of the seven new councils would be:

  • Belfast Local Government District, incorporating the current Belfast City Council, parts of Lisburn, North Down and Castlereagh;
  • Inner East Local Government District, incorporating Antrim, Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey Councils and the remainder of Lisburn City Council;
  • East Local Government District, comprising Ards, Down, parts of North Down and Castlereagh Councils;
  • South Local Government District, made up of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon and Newry and Mourne;
  • West Local Government District, incorporating Cookstown, Dungannon and South Tyrone, Fermanagh and Omagh;
  • North West Local Government District, comprising Derry, Limavady, Magherafelt and Strabane and part of Coleraine;
  • North East Local Government District, made up of Ballymena, Ballymoney, Larne, Moyle and a major part of Coleraine.

Mr Mackenzie said he had chosen the names of the seven new councils to reflect the geography of Northern Ireland.

He had consulted historians to see if they could be given more imaginative names around which people could unite but to no avail.

Mr Mackenzie said that Belfast would get 60 councillors under his plans.

It is proposed that the six other council areas could have 60 councillors each.

However, the boundaries commissioner said he was prepared to look at suggestions during the consultation period this number could vary between 55 and 65.

People are being invited to submit written responses to the new boundaries over the eight weeks until 5 January, and public hearings will be held in each new council area.

Mr Mackenzie said the boundaries were purely based on their geography rather than any consideration of electoral consequences.

"The proposed boundaries of the districts are based on the amalgamation of the existing councils, with the exception of Belfast, for which I am recommending a more natural boundary for the population living within the city area and which reflects the expansion of the city over the years," he said.

Mixed reaction

Parts of the Lisburn City Council area, including Poleglass and Dunmurry will become part of Belfast as will parts of the Castlereagh council area, including Tullycarnet and Belvoir.

The recommendations would increase the size of the population in Belfast's council area from 280,000 to 320,000.

Under plans announced last November by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, the dual mandate which allows people to serve both as Assembly members and councillors is being removed, affecting 69 out of the 108 MLAs currently elected.

Key decisions will be taken on a cross-community basis and in future councils will also have responsibility for a number of major functions like planning and local roads.

There has been a mixed political reaction to the proposed boundary changes.

Four out of five of the major parties are against the reduction in the number of councils here from 26 to seven.

The DUP said nothing better reflected the "lack of common identity" within the new council areas than the headaches civil servants had experienced in coming up with suitable names.

The SDLP and Alliance Party expressed the hope that a future Northern Ireland Assembly would overturn the re-organisation.

The Local Government Association, which includes councillors from across the spectrum, reiterated its support for keeping 15 councils.

Sinn Fein stood by its backing for seven councils, but the former Belfast Lord Mayor Alex Maskey said he wanted to look in detail at the plan for the city to expand to take in parts of Lisburn, Castlereagh and North Down.

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