Belfast Lord Mayor's new £70,000 car puts city councillors in a spin
Belfast Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon would not comment on whether she thought a new luxury car was needed for her role.
The Belfast Telegraph revealed yesterday that the council has set aside £70,000 for a new official car for the Lord Mayor.
The car is used principally to transport the Lord Mayor to appointments during her year in office, but also the deputy Lord Mayor Maire Hendron (Alliance), Presiding Councillor of the new supercouncil Deirdre Hargey (Sinn Fein) and her deputy Ruth Patterson (DUP).
The current official car is a BMW 7 series which was bought in 2008.
The strategic policy and resources committee of the council agreed in December that the car needed to be replaced.
At a meeting of the committee last week, officials told councillors that £70,000 had been made available.
They are currently considering a number of options to replace the car, including purchase of a new one, leasing, and sponsorship.
People Before Profit councillor Gerry Carroll slammed the budget for the new car as "a joke".
Yesterday east Belfast Ukip representative Jonny Lavery also criticised it "at a time when many people across this city are struggling to get by".
He continued: "The £70,000 that the council has set aside to spend on this purchase would surely be much better spent on improving services in our city.
"Can the council justify this expenditure?"
SDLP MLA John Dallat – who previously criticised the Stormont Executive for shelling out £252,000 for a fleet of 13 Skoda Supremes to ferry ministers around – defended the budget for a new car for the Lord Mayor.
"As I understand it the current Lord Mayor's limousine could join the vintage car club I belong to except that it is not a Morris Minor," he said. "It must have horrendous mileage, certainly not environmentally friendly, extremely costly to maintain and in need of replacement.
"The timing could not be better for justifying this investment because the current Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, is an absolute gem, the best ambassador the city has had for years.
"I think it would be most inappropriate to have her arriving at her numerous events in a Ford Fiesta or whatever she normally drives."
He added the investment was justified.
"Belfast is now a city buzzing with excitement and in many ways a more accurate reflection of life than this Assembly which the First Minister recently described as 'not fit for purpose'," he said.
"Yes, on this occasion the investment can be justified and hopefully it will last another 20 years or whatever.
"And it would be nice to know that such a deserving mayor was the first to grace its interior."
The 7 Series is BMW's flagship car and is only available as a sedan or extended-length limousine.
The 7 Series traditionally introduces technologies and exterior design themes before they trickle down to smaller sedans in BMW's line-up.
It retails at around £67,000 for a cash buy.