Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Kirk McCambley was given seven months free rental of inn and council paid for equipment

Kirk McCambley at the Lock Keeper's Inn in Belfast
Kirk McCambley
Peter Robinson

Iris Robinson’s young lover was awarded a seven-month rent free period worth just over £4,000 to run the Lock Keeper’s Inn and did not have to pay for catering equipment worth almost £6,500, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

According to official documents, Castlereagh councillors approved these conditions based on the recommendations of officials in July 2008.

The papers also show that Kirk McCambley was not the only person to apply to run the cafe in the picturesque settings of the Lagan Valley towpath.

Four other people had expressed an interest in running a tea room inside the visitor’s centre at some point during the process.

The information is contained in the minutes of the Castlereagh Council’s economic development sub committee.

The law requires councils to make the minutes readily available to all members of the public. The council supplied the minutes to the Belfast Telegraph almost a week after they were requested.

According to the documents, the committee first decided to advertise for “expressions of interest” for the site in January 2008.

Following that meeting it was decided that the council procure an “in-house” catering arrangement.

An advertisement seeking potential candidates was placed in the media and the committee invited an applicant, Louise Foye, to present her ideas for the business to members.

Following her presentation on March 10, 2008, Mrs Foye was asked to submit a business plan.

But by May she was no longer being considered for the tender.

In the minutes it says a council official had not received a response from Mrs Foye since their last meeting.

The minutes state that the council then re-advertised and by July four other people expressed an interest in obtaining a lease to run the cafe, including Kirk McCambley.

All four were asked to submit a business plan to a panel consisting of the deputy mayor Jim White, economic development sub committee chairman Jack Beattie, a DUP councillor, the director of finance and the economic development manager.

Applicants had until July 23, 2008 to submit their plans.

Two weeks later, at the full council meeting on July 24, members voted to offer Kirk McCambley the lease.

According to those minutes, Mr McCambley was the only applicant to submit a business plan by a July 18 deadline.

The Belfast Telegraph contacted one of the other applicants, Diana McElnay, to find out about her application.

The south Belfast mother, who has extensive catering qualifications, said she withdrew from the process because of family commitments and did not submit a business plan.

Also in July the council decided to accept a £6,338 quote from DMC Catering Equipment Ltd to fit out the kitchen in the cafe.

At the August economic development sub committee meeting members were told that |Mr McCambley had requested that, apart from the £6,338 for essential catering equipment, the council make a “further financial contribution” towards establishing the business.

The economic development manager recommended to the committee that it should offer Mr McCambley a seven-month rent free period rather than make any “further contribution”, which was worth £4,084.

At the August 28 full council meeting, councillors, including Iris Robinson, voted in favour of granting the lease to Mr McCambley. They also approved all the conditions such as the rent free period and absorbing the catering equipment costs.

Because of the allegations made in the Spotlight programme last week, Castlereagh Borough Council announced it would hold an inquiry into the affair.

So far it is not known what sort of investigation will be held but its terms of reference will be agreed at a special council meeting tonight.

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