Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

£10,000 claim for expenses by councillor jailed for rape

A councillor who was convicted of raping a woman claimed almost £10,000 in expenses and allowances last year.

William Wilkinson represented the United Unionist Coalition on Ballymena council, but was jailed for seven years in June.

It followed his conviction for the rape and attempted rape of a woman, who was described as “a casual acquaintance”.

Ballymena council falls under the spotlight in the final instalment of our week-long investigation into what local councillors receive.

Throughout the week we have been investigating expenses and allowances paid to nearly 600 councillors across Northern Ireland.

In the last 12 months, their claims cost ratepayers more than £8.4m.

And that annual bill will continue for the foreseeable future after plans to revamp local government collapsed earlier this year.

Today, the final part of our series also examines claims by members of Banbridge, Carrickfergus, Lisburn, Moyle and Omagh councils.

There are 24 Ballymena councillors, and each was paid a £9,738 basic allowance — a total spend of £233,712.

Another £31,360 was handed out in responsibility allowances, while £28,560 was paid to 11 councillors who were also DPP members.

Travel claims by councillors cost ratepayers £19,056, while subsistence totalled £817.

According to council documents, Wilkinson claimed £9,940 during 2009/10. This included his £9,738 basic allowance and £143 for travel expenses.

Attendance records show Wilkinson was present at eight of 12 monthly council meetings up to March this year. The 33-year-old was initially appointed to the council as a DUP member in November 2005 but left the party in 2007 in protest at its power-sharing deal with Sinn Fein.

The top claim was made by James Currie, who was mayor of Ballymena last year.

His £27,632 claim included a £4,240 responsibility allowance, a £3,360 payment for DPP membership, £3,960 in travel expenses and £528 in subsistence.

The second highest claim was made by DUP member Maurice Mills. His £19,916 total also included allowances for DPP membership and special responsibilities, while Mr Mills’ travel expenses amounted to £1,854.

TUV councillor James Alexander claimed £17,808 — a total which included £1,720 in travel expenses and a £2,520 DPP allowance.

Meanwhile, DUP member Thomas Nicholl’s claims totalled £16,476, which included £866 in travel expenses.

SDLP Assembly Member Declan O’Loan also sits on Ballymena council and claimed £15,961, including £186 in travel expenses.

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