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Belfast councillors vote to hike their allowances in spite of opposition

Last-minute bid to reverse controversial move rejected

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Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Hall

Belfast City Council has ratified a decision to increase the allowances of members by 2.75%, despite a last-ditch attempt to have it reversed.

Last month, a majority of councillors on the council's strategic policy and resources committee agreed an increase from £15,071 per annum to £15,486.

They also agreed to raise the maximum special responsibility allowance from £108,000 per annum to £117,774 and approved an increase to the maximum rate of dependant carer's allowance.

The former applies to councillors elected to roles leading committees, party group leaders and higher offices, such as the Lord Mayor. Dependant carer's allowance goes to any member who is someone's main carer.

During the monthly meeting of the council last night, Sinn Fein councillor Arder Carson proposed the decision be reversed, with the rise only applying to the dependant carers' allowance. Mr Carson said that while councillors worked hard, to award themselves the rise at the present time would be an "act of poor judgment".

"We all know the pain the pandemic has brought is immeasurable. We also know the extent of the financial impact, which is not yet to be determined, will be deep and severe and no doubt few will escape it," he added.

"Families across the city are suffering financial hardship, so I think awarding ourselves this increase, when families and every sector are struggling to make ends meet, would be sending out the wrong message.

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"It would undermine the work we have done in the community and in business initiatives."

People Before Profit councillor Matt Collins said if the allowance increase went ahead, it would be an "insult to workers".

"This proposal represents a situation where politicians look after themselves, while workers and the unemployed are roundly attacked and have the burden of this crisis forced upon them," he added.

DUP council group leader Brian Kingston defended the rise.

"I agree with those saying it is unfortunate and undesirable that councillors have had to make this decision. It is based, though, on independent advice," he said.

He added that the rise was "the same as what council staff got, (that) councillors are entitled to an inflationary increase, just as staff are", and that the figure was "based on the recommendation from the Department for Communities".

The reversal proposal was seconded by the SDLP's Donal Lyons. He said "as a point of principle" he does not think councillors should have a vote on increasing their allowances.

The bid to reverse the decision was defeated, with 25 votes in favour and 32 against.

The DUP, UUP, Greens, PUP and Alliance voted against, with Sinn Fein, the SDLP and People Before Profit voting in favour.

Belfast Telegraph


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