Belfast Telegraph

Council suspends its investigation

By Lauren Mulvenny

Castlereagh Borough Council has suspended its external investigation into the granting of the lease at the Lock Keeper's Inn.

Revealed in a statement after the latest full council meeting, which took place on January 28, the decision was taken in committee once all press had left the room and the council had time to consider “a number of recent developments”, a spokesperson said.

The decision to conduct an external investigation was made at a special meeting of Castlereagh Borough Council on January 13, following allegations regarding the business dealings of former councillor Iris Robinson.

Making the decision to postpone the investigation, the spokesperson said the council had “considered the recent announcement that the Assembly Commissioner for Standards & Privileges Committee has suspended the investigation by the Assembly Commissioner for Standards, until the PSNI investigation is complete.

“At the meeting members were also advised by the acting chief executive of a preliminary information request from the PSNI, seeking access to council information in order to conduct a criminal investigation,” said the spokesperson.

“Members noted that the PSNI letter pointed out that their investigation would take “primacy over civil matters”, and on this basis the council unanimously agreed to temporarily suspend its own investigation.”

Earlier in the evening those gathered in the public galleries were given an insight into how tense the in-committee meeting may have been, as members clashed when asked to ratify the minutes of the special meeting.

Making a point of order, Councillor Michael Long asked: “Why are the minutes not tabled when minutes from subsequent meetings have been?”

And as the acting chief executive confirmed councillors had not yet been given a copy of the minutes, only deemed ready for distribution on the morning of the meeting, Councillor Jimmy Spratt added confusion to events by claiming to have a copy.

Once cleared up, the acting chief executive relented to calls from Councillor David Drysdale and the minutes were circulated around the chamber.

But Councillor Geraldine Rice criticised what she termed “not correct procedure”. She added: “If minutes are being put before the council for approval then they should be sent in advance of the meeting.”

On receiving the minutes the decision was swiftly taken to discuss them in committee.

It is believed a special meeting of Castlereagh Borough Council will take place before the full council meeting on February 25, to discuss the seat vacated by Iris Robinson.

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