Well, I've done it!
Yesterday I went out and bought myself a new desk!
I'm now the proud owner (or will be once it arrives) of a Roland M480 and 2 S-1608 stage boxes, plus a couple of hundred meter lengths of Cat5.
In the end the decision was between an M480 and an iLive T112 with idr48 mixrack. An outsider was also a Digico SD9, albeit at the very top of my budget (I lie, very much out of my budget! - see ensuing reality check...).
I spent a good amount of time with both consoles (and a good few others). Whilst I agree with most of the comments above about the iLive system, and did enjoy my training day playing with one, I concluded that it wasn't for me. It's a very able console, and extremely flexible when it comes to configuration, but it's just too much for what I need 99% of the time. I realised that the extra functionality of iLive over the M480 was not actually something I'd ever really make use of. In the foreseeable future I can't see any jobs that I could do that would need the extra functions that iLive would bring. With that in mind, and about a £3k price difference, I decided to go with the M480. IF I need anything bigger then it'll be a very rare and probably one-off event. On such an occasion I can afford to spend a few hundred quid hiring in something like a CL5, SD8 or an iLive and still have most of that £3k firmly in my pocket.
On to the M480, I really do love them! They're a superb little console and along with the digital snake are a very affordable system. I've had one on demo a few times and in each instance the manual stayed firmly shut. We just seemed to click (I've spoken about ex girlfriends like that, so perhaps shouldn't read too much into it!). The digital snake is very flexible when it comes to patching. In the future I'll probably end up buying a REAC merge unit and a 3rd S-1608 to take me up to the full 48 channels. 3 separate boxes is incredibly flexible. One in the pit, one by the radio mics, one in the wings. Or for band work, one on the kit, one stage left, one stage right. Really nice flexible setup.
It only has 24 faders, but I managed ok last time I had one on demo with quite a complicated show, and if I get really stuck it looks pretty straightforward to add a midi fader wing for extra channel control.
Real thanks to everyone who contributed to this discussion, it genuinely helped me make a decision. Also big thanks to Pro Audio Systems in Bradford who were extremely helpful in getting me iLive demo's, I'd recommend their service to anybody! Ultimately I bought from SSE - a company I've got a good relationship with and one that I hope will continue for many years. They've been extremely patient while I've twiddled my thumbs and pondered this buy, and have probably prepared dozens of quotes for me and arranged a good few demo's. Again, highly recommended! Thanks too to Wigwam for a great Digico training day, and Audio Technica for the iLive training.
Roland's support team were the ones who ultimately convinced me to go for the M480. Had a long chat on the phone with them and they've been quick to answer all my questions. I know they're not the best known digital console manufacturer out there, but from what I've seen so far I'm looking forward to being one of their users.