Belfast Telegraph

Ex-UUP councillor Mervyn Rea censured by Standards Commissioner

Former UUP councillor Mervyn Rea has been censured by the Commissioner for Standards. (Rebecca Black/PA)
Former UUP councillor Mervyn Rea has been censured by the Commissioner for Standards. (Rebecca Black/PA)

A former Northern Ireland councillor has been censured by a government watchdog, despite him no longer being an elected representative.

An investigation was launched by the Local Government Commissioner for Standards (LGCS) into the conduct of former Ulster Unionist councillor Mervyn Rea in October 2016 .

The probe followed a complaint from a member of the public about Mr Rea attendance at a meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council's Planning Committee.

Mr Rea, who was not a member of the committee, spoke in support of an application for planning permission for a pig farm in Newtownabbey.

The Commissioner Marie Anderson found that, on the balance of probabilities, the then-councillor had an "indirect" financial interest in the planning application, which he did not declare prior to the meeting.

Mervyn Rea lost his council seat in May's local government elections.

Following the decision this week, a LGCS spokesperson said Ms Anderson believed it was important to issue a number of "learning points" to councillors.

"Among these were that the requirements relating to the declaration of pecuniary interests are a fundamental requirement of the code and it is a councillor’s personal responsibility to comply with them, regardless of the relevant council practices and procedures," they said.

"The commissioner also stated that having registered any interests, councillors have an ongoing obligation to disclose and declare their pecuniary and non - pecuniary interests. Failure to do this could be regarded as a serious matter which may result in a sanction of disqualification.

"On a more general point, the commissioner stressed the importance of councillors engaging and cooperating with both the investigation and adjudication processes. In this case Mr Rea, assisted by his legal representatives, was given credit for the regard he showed for the standards regime.

"Ms Anderson stated that co-operation from councillors is of mutual benefit and invariably leads to savings to the public purse."

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