Belfast Telegraph

Top unionists slow to pay party dues

By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent.

SENIOR Ulster Unionists are in debt to their own party, detailed figures revealed today.

SENIOR Ulster Unionists are in debt to their own party, detailed figures revealed today.

More than a third of the 171 UUP council members owe money to the party's official councillors' association, an internal document obtained by the Belfast Telegraph shows.

And £29,000-a-year Assembly members are among the debtors, some of whom have not paid membership fees for up to eight years.

In some councils almost every member of the Ulster Unionist group has not fully paid the annual fee - only £5 a year until raised to £10 in 1997.

The worst record for dues is Belfast City Council where a number of UU councillors owe the association for up to nine years.

They include senior Assembly figure Fred Cobain, Fred Proctor, a leader in the all-party National Association of Councillors, and Laganbank councillor Jim Clarke, who has the single highest debt of £60.

Mr Clarke said: "I just don't see the point in paying. The councillors' association is just a talking shop. What has it ever achieved?"The release of these figures is just an attempt to embarrass us, but it could possibly backfire on them.

"I have to pay into the party, the local association and the branch. It would total about £30 or £40 and it is just getting people's backs up that they are looking for more.

"I must say I cannot remember the last time I paid the fee for the councillors association. Nobody has ever explained to me what it is for."

The list also names Belfast Lord Mayor Bob Stoker, said to owe £40, but he said the information was incorrect and he was up to date with payments to the association.

Mr Cobain and Mr Proctor are withholding payments as a protest.

"It is because Belfast is not properly represented among officers of the Association and this is an issue we are taking up withGlengall Street and the officers of the Association," Mr Proctor said.

Around 58 of the total 171 councillors owe at least £10.

Other prominent names features include UUP Drumcree link man David McNarry, former and present mayors and Assembly members Ian Adamson and Tom Benson, some of whom owe only £20.

Belfast Telegraph

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