It’s a case of ‘little change’ as the final recommendations were published this week for the new Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon (ABC) Council, one of the 11 being created from the current 26 in Northern Ireland.
The draft recommendations last year by the District Electoral Area Commission are virtually ‘as you were’ despite seven written submissions in ABC by the various parties. These included a call for Loughgall ward to be in Armagh rather than Portadown, and Waringstown to move to Banbridge or Lurgan rather than Lagan River which is centred in Dromore.
And there were calls for more council members than the recommended 41, but this, too, has been ignored. There are 65 members in the three existing civic centres, but the commission is sticking by its guns.
The only minor change is that Gilford ward – originally in Lagan River – has been shifted to Banbridge, while Gransha ward goes to Lagan River. This was requested by the SDLP.
The election to the new councils will be next May, having been postponed from the original 2011 date. The best guess is that Armagh City will be the new headquarters, and the primatial city will be keen that the Lord Mayor status, granted three years ago, is retained.
Voting will, as ever, be proportional representation, and the new council leader – be it Lord Mayor, Mayor or Chairperson – will be by the d’Hondt method. This will impact especially on Craigavon, where the Mayorship has been almost exclusively a unionist preserve, with just two SDLP and one Independent Nationalist being the exceptions in the 40-year history.
May 22, 2014, is the pencilled-in date, and the ABC Council will have its first meeting a year later.
There are seven DEAs (District Electoral Areas) within ABC – Portadown, Craigavon, Lurgan, Cusher, Armagh, Lagan River and Banbridge. Most are self-explanatory, with Lagan Bridge centred around Dromore and Waringstown. The total electorate is 139,285, which means the average to elect each councillor is 3,397.