THERE have been warnings that ratepayers in the new Lisburn and Castlereagh council area will have a body which will be effectively bankrupt before it's even got off the ground because of the boundaries which have been drawn up.
Lisburn Council's Director of Environmental Services Mr Colm McClintock said the future of the new body could be in jeopardy before it has even begun.
Speaking after the Boundary Commissioner rejected pleas for Dunmurry, Forestside and Castlereagh Council offices to remain in the new council area, Mr McClintock said: "There has been no recognition given by the Commissioner to the sustainability of the new council.
"There has been no recognition given by the Commissioner to the case put forward by this council." Agreeing with concerns expressed by Councillor Jonathan Craig that the new council could face what he said amounted to bankruptcy, Mr McClintock confirmed Council officials would be meeting solicitors this week to discuss the way forward, with the possibility of a judicial review not being ruled out.
"There is little room left for consultation and we will now take the best legal advice possible" he said.
Councillors at Monday night's meeting of Lisburn Council's Planning Committee were outraged the Boundary Commissioner insisted Dunmurry, Twinbrook, Lagmore, Poleglass and Kilwee be moved to Belfast, despite a wave of public support for retaining the village in the Lisburn area.
Explaining his decision, the Boundary Commissioner stated: "Assistant Commissioner Good acknowledged the considerable body of evidence relating to the community ties and wishes of residents as expressed at public meetings, correspondence and petitions.
"However, I have concluded that the proposed boundary represented a readily identifiable boundary and recommend no change (to the original recommendation)." Reacting angrily to the decision to remove Dunmurry and to exclude Forestside and the current Castlereagh council offices from the new council, Lisburn councillors called for a judicial review.
Alderman Edwin Poots said the situation was "wholly unacceptable" and that the removal of Castlereagh council offices from the area was "a travesty." He added: "We need to do whatever needs to he done to address this."
Councillor Jonathan Craig said it was clear the "will of the people had been ignored" and that judicial review was the only option. "Quite frankly the residents of Dunmurry, their representatives and their elected members have been treated with total and utter contempt," said Mr Craig. "The Commission's decision flies in the face of the will of the people in Dunmurry and is a disgrace." He added that the new council could be faced with no option but to double or even treble the local rates, which are currently one of the lowest in Northern Ireland.
Councillor Brian Heading stated Dunmurry residents would also face much higher rates charges if they were forced to move to Belfast. "It is the height of nonsense that the Boundary Commissioner is corralling people into Belfast so they can meet their budget" he said. Councillor Margaret Tolerton added Dunmurry residents were devastated by the decision. "I spoke to one 83-year-old woman who has lived in Dunmurry her whole life," said Mrs Tolerton. "She said if this goes ahead she will have to move because she doesn't want to live in Belfast. She was in tears and she is just one of many. The voice of the people of Dunmurry must be heard.'
LISBURN'S Mayor is demanding an urgent meeting with Environment Minister Sammy Wilson following the Boundary Commission's decision to uphold last years controversial recommendation to incorporate Dunmurry into the Belfast City Council area when Lisburn merges with Castlereagh to become one of Northern Ireland's new 'super councils'. Councillor Ronnie Crawford described the Boundary Commissioner's decision not to revise any of his provisional recommendations for the Lisburn area despite cross party and community led representations as 'another blow for the city'. He pledged the council would `seek legal advice in the most urgent manner' and refuse in the year during which Lisburn celebrates its 400th anniversary, to accept so many of its wards being "stripped away to Belfast". He warned ratepayers in these wards they would face 'much higher household and commercial rates' and added: "One has to question to what degree Lisburn City Council's representations were considered.
"Views of the Council and of the local community have been entirely disregarded and set aside. Dunmurry village has a long association with Lisburn and despite the Community Assocation making representations to be retained within Lisburn, and elected member representation, Assistant Commissioner Good recommended that Dunmurry village be part of the Belfast area.
"I think it is appalling that the views of local people are so easily set aside" he said.
"I will not accept the Revised Recommendations as a fait accompli for Lisburn, and we wish to communicate our abhorrence about this situation directly to the Boundary Commissioner, accompanied by a steadfast resolve to ensure this Council gets a fair deal."