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PUP councillors refuse to back £70,000 replacement car for Belfast Lord Mayor

By Rebecca Black

Progressive Unionist Party councillors will refuse to support spending £70,000 on a new car for Belfast's Lord Mayor, they have revealed.

There was a stormy discussion about a £70,000 fund for the car at a meeting of the shadow policy and resources committee yesterday.

The PUP's Billy Hutchinson and Julie Anne Corr said they would not back spending ratepayers' money on the car.

People Before Profit councillor Gerry Carroll has also opposed spending the £70,000.

But former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers of the UUP argued that it was important for the first citizen to portray the right image. He said that when he was mayor in 2001-2, the car at the time was "more often off the road than on – and it was embarrassing".

It is understood that the current car – a BMW 7 Series which was bought in 2008 for tens of thousands of pounds – has cost a large amount in repairs.

The strategic policy and resources committee of the council agreed last December to replace the vehicle.

Last week the committee was told that £70,000 had been set aside for the new car.

However, councillors are examining a number of options including finding a company to sponsor it and the possibility of leasing a vehicle.

The committee heard that the new car "must obviously be of a type commensurate with the prestigious nature of the office of Lord Mayor".

The council also owns a Peugeot that is used as a back-up car. Under the plan agreed by the strategic policy and resources committee last week, it will be sold and the current BMW allocated as back-up.

All 13 Stormont ministers – including the First Minister – are transported in Skoda Supremes.

The fleet was bought in 2011 for £252,000 – around £19,000 each.

The decision over the new car is the responsibility of Belfast City Council which will hand over the reigns to the shadow council in June.

The full council is expected to debate the matter next Wednesday.

Current Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon has stated that she will take no part in the discussion and decision about the new car.

Story so far

The Belfast Telegraph revealed that Belfast City Council's strategic policy and resources committee has set aside £70,000 for a new lord mayor's car. The current official car – a BMW 7 Series – was bought in 2008. Its replacement "must obviously be of a type commensurate with the prestigious nature of the office of Lord Mayor," the committee heard.

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