Ulster Unionist Environment spokesperson Tom Elliott has warned of the potential for massive rate hikes for many ratepayers if the DUP and Sinn Fein proposals for 11 local councils are implemented.
Mr Elliott said:
“The Ulster Unionist Party supported a 15 council model based on the 18 Parliamentary Constituencies, with one council to cover the four Belfast constituencies.
“We did so largely because we believed that having councils based on the same boundaries as Parliamentary Constituencies would provide for effective and efficient administration and reduce the potential for confusion amongst the electorate.
“However, the reality is that the DUP and Sinn Fein have combined to impose an 11 council model on Northern Ireland and due to the strength of numbers which they enjoy in the Stormont Chamber, that is what we are currently faced with.
“I have a number of concerns with regard to the proposals for the 11 council model, as proposed by the DUP and Sinn Fein.
“In relation to costs, I believe that clarity has to be provided regarding transition costs, the cost of rate convergence and also the cost of the transfer of functions.
“In many instances this could prove a triple whammy for rate-payers in some areas, with rate increases having the potential to rise by 20 per cent for rate convergence alone, and transition costs being estimated at £118 million by PWC. Many ratepayers could be in for a huge financial shock.
“I also have grave concerns that the 11 council model does not take account of local community identities in a number of areas.
“The proposed Fermanagh and Omagh Council will stretch from Carrickmore to Belcoo. Elsewhere Castlederg will be governed from the city of Londonderry and one of the most bizarre proposals is that Dundonald will be linked with Moira as part of a new Lisburn and Castlereagh construct, rather than east Belfast.
“We highlighted these concerns when the 11 council model was first raised and this is confirmed by the Local Government Boundaries Commissioner for Northern Ireland in the Revised Recommendations Report of February 2009.
“The 11 Council model is not right for Northern Ireland and only serves to produce a Sinn Fein/DUP political carve-up that is not in the best interests of the public.”