New political party Community Partnership Northern Ireland (CPNI) has called on North Down Council’s town clerk to resign after a Rathgill community worker went without pay over Christmas.
Last Friday, January 7, party members Karen Worrall and Jamie Bryson staged a sit-in at Bangor Town Hall to protest that the woman “was still awaiting payment from the council” under the Peace III programme that it manages.
Mr Bryson said: “Considering the recent extreme cold weather conditions and the costly festive period, we were horrified that anyone would be left without an income over Christmas. The woman concerned is a mother of two children.”
He blamed council ‘mismanagement’ while a council spokeswoman said the Rathgill Community Association, which employs the woman, was at fault.
Mr Bryson claimed that an audit of the council’s management of the accounts of its Peace III funding had shown a 60 per cent error rate. “Now this was nothing to do with those managing the community projects, everything was done by the book — it was their own internal management system,” he claimed.
“Because of the council’s mismanagement, the town clerk decided to freeze the accounts, which even the SEUPB, who control the funding, say is not justified — particularly in relation to people’s salaries. We appealed many times for her to be paid through all the normal channels, but nothing was done. We felt we had to stage a sit-in and tell people what was happening.”
The protest ended when town clerk Trevor Polley issued a cheque to the protestors for the woman.
A spokesperson for North Down Borough Council pointed out that the woman in question was employed by Rathgill Community Association and not the council.
She explained that the council had facilitated the Rathgill project with a £7,400 advance to cover stipulated costs but that following an audit, SEUPB (the PEACE III managing authority) disallowed £3,400 of monies claimed because of the project's failure to meet stipulated requirements.
“Under the Council's Peace III contract with RCA this money must be repaid. Despite repeated requests, RCA failed to release the necessary information to enable a full reconciliation to be carried out. While the matter was being investigated, the Council withheld payment of three RCA claims amounting to a total of £771 .”
She said the council agreed to release the £771 following a meeting with SEUPB on Friday morning and that a further meeting between Council, SEUPB and RCA is planned for January 21 to discuss the problems.
She added: “All of the issues raised in the audit have since been closed to the satisfaction of the managing authority, with the exception of the funding paid to Rathgill Community Association.”