WHILE most of the local authorities in the country are set to shrink in the wake of local authority reforms published last week, Fingal County Council is about to get very bloated, increasing from 24 councillors to 40.
An increase in the number of elected members on Fingal County Council has been flagged for some time, but with the publication of a report from the Local Area Boundary Committee on Thursday, it is now official.
The number of county councillors in each of Fingal's five wards is set to increase, which will mean there will be 16 new seats on the county council to fight for in next year's local elections.
The Balbriggan ward increases from five seats to eight, with some of those additional seats designed to make up for the loss of Balbriggan Town Council. The town council's abolishment has been effectively sealed with these newly published reforms.
The Howth-Malahide ward also increases by three seats from five to eight and this ward also sees a lot of new voters flooding in as Waterside estates moves from the Swords ward to Malahide, after a concerted local campaign by residents.
The two wards in Dublin 15 are also set to increase, with Castleknock going from four seats to seven and Mulhuddart expanding by three seats from five to eight.
But the biggest change is in Swords, to reflect its hugely expanded population and traditionally, a relatively low level of representation. The Swords electoral area will now have nine seats, almost double the existing five seats in the ward.
It had been expected that Fingal would be split into new 'municipal districts', but the committee has recommended that the county keep its current five local area divisions and has distributed the 40 seats in Fingal accordingly.
The changes have massive implications for the next local elections.
With 40 seats up for grabs, the established parties will be running more candidates than ever before in the five Fingal wards and the increased availability of seats is likely to bring many more independent candidates out of the woodwork in what could be a chaotic election.
Chaos is what a lot of observers fear might happen once the new council is formed. Increasingly, the existing 24 councillors on Fingal County Council regularly fail to get through the business on the agenda of their monthly meetings. With 40 councillors vying for air-time, standing orders at the council will have to be reviewed if any useful business at all is to be conducted at the monthly council meetings.
In the meantime, there are practical implications for the council too which is already putting plans in train to adopt council buildings and the chamber in county hall to accommodate 16 extra councillors.