Belfast Telegraph

DUP accused over 'double jobbing'

The DUP has been accused of trying to block Assembly legislation aimed at ending "double jobbing".

The measure would have stopped MLAs holding council seats, but the author of the Bill, Dawn Purvis, said the DUP had used a procedural device to effectively derail her plans.

Democratic Unionists laid a petition of concern to her Private Member's Bill, ensuring the legislation must secure cross-community support rather than being passed by a simple majority. But this was only after DUP amendments were rejected.

Ms Purvis wanted her reforms in place prior to May's local government and Assembly elections, but the DUP had sought to amend her blueprint to delay the ban until 2014 while also ensuring politicians were only paid for one job.

But Ms Purvis said: "A petition of concern was a part of the Good Friday Agreement intended to protect communities from sectarian policies. It has nothing to do with this Bill and as far as the DUP are concerned simply provides an opportunity to torpedo anything they don't like, which is a flagrant abuse of the system."

She said a "community safeguard" should not be used in party politics. Ms Purvis added: "This Bill was designed to create opportunities for political parties to involve more young people, women and other under-represented groups in our political system. It was designed to share out the political power and prevent dynasty building - but the DUP have always been opposed to it."

The Bill will not be laid as planned as Ms Purvis is ill, but it has been signalled that the legislation's final stage will be moved after Christmas.

The Private Member's Bill has been debated and voted on in the Assembly several times, when only the DUP and Alliance Party opposed it.

The Alliance Party argued that ending double jobbing for councillors implied local government posts must be full-time. If councillors could not hold any other job, the party argued there would be cost implications in employing them as full-time local government representatives.

The Alliance Party said its leader David Ford, who is an MLA and Justice Minister, relinquished his council seat. Alliance Party East Belfast MP Naomi Long dropped her Assembly seat and council seat when she took on the Westminster post.

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