So its official and the worst kept secret in politics is out for good now. It's going to be seven councils for the north with a maximum of 50 councillors each. Now a lot of people have expressed reservations about this shake up. One of the worries has been a loss of local identity but having looked at the new proposals personally I don't think this is a problem. To be honest my own council will now give me more local identity as the parition of the great county of Armagh has ended and our comrades from the north of the orchard county are to have the honour of being rejoined with their southern cousins! Personally I never identified with "Newry and Mourne."
Councillors will also be barred from holding both a council and MLA seat. This is also to be welcomed as councillors will now have more powers and probably a greater area to serve and therefore it is important that they are not distracted from their work by double, or even triple, mandates. I also hope that since planning powers are to be returned to councils, we will have an improvement on the disgraceful situation at present where it is almost impossible for farmers to get planning permission on their own land for their children to build a house. If this situation is not rectified soon I fear that many young people will have to leave the areas their families may have inhabited for generations.
These changes are hoped to save £200 million a year and if this money is put into public service in the 6 counties then I believe the changes will be more than worthwhile.