Magherafelt will be ‘worse-off’ in new super-council

Councillor Paul McLean
Councillor Paul McLean

RATE-payers in the Magherafelt District Council area will have most to lose once the so-called ‘super council’ materialises, according to one of its former Chairmen.

DUP Councillor Paul McLean’s fear was expressed following this week’s announcement by the Executive to introduce the Local Government Bill into the Assembly.

The proposed Mid-Ulster super council will result in a merger of Magherafelt, Cookstown and Dungannon Councils.

The move has been described by Environment Minister Mark H Durkan as “the next major step in the legislative process that will make local government reform a reality.”

However, Magherafelt councillors appeared less than ecstatic at the news, fearing that local services will diminish.

Said Cllr McLean: “Councillors from all parties are concerned that rates will increase and service delivery will not be as good... we will probably be the council area that suffers most in this whole amalgamation.”

George Shiels said he also fears that service provision will decrease, rates increase and councillors will no longer have time for constituents. However, the Chair of the Transitional Committee Sinn Fein Cllr Sean McPeake said: “It’s very easy to be negative.

“The Mid-Ulster amalgamation is probably the most ‘natural fit’ of all in so far as it’s a geographically natural constituency with commanality and there is very little difference in rates, about one to two per cent among the three councils. We have to be real about this.”

He then stressed: “It’s incumbent on all those involved in the councils’ amalgamation, the preparatory bodies and working groups, to work positively and constructively. We have an opportunity to re-structure and modernise local services and that opportunity should be grasped.”