Cllr. Judith Cochrane said: “We are very dissatisfied with the current arrangements which allow one party to have access to the Management Team responsible for the strategic direction for the Council. In every other Council we have contacted, no political representatives sit on the Management Team and we believe that this is for very good reason.
“Whilst no formal votes are taken at the meetings, the DUP have the opportunity to object to future proposed business? We also feel that a group which may be looking at sensitive issues such as staffing should not have any elected member on its membership.
“We have tabled a motion for tonight’s Council meeting calling for no elected representatives to be included on the Team. We have also raised our concerns with the Chief Executive.
“If the role of that Councillor is to get a view from a Councillor’s perspective, this could just as easily be done by meeting with the group leaders of all the parties which would be fair and free of any political bias; for example, in other Councils, there are regular meetings between the Chief Executive and each party group to look at issues of strategic direction. Why should only one party have this privilege in Castlereagh?”
Cllr. Michael Long added, “Whilst we believe the situation to be unfair and far from the norm, we are also unhappy at the lack of openness and transparency about it. Whilst Peter Robinson was appointed to the position in 1997, I have served on the Council since 2001 and only found out about the DUP role through an email circulated a short time ago, which informed us that Gareth Robinson was a member of the Management Team and which led us to investigate further.
“To the best of our knowledge, this role has not been raised at any Council AGM, unlike appointments to every other Committee of the Council. In addition, this is not included on the current member’s list of Committees on which he serves on the Council website.
“The minutes of these meetings are not made available to other Councillors so we have no idea what is being discussed in our absence between the top Council officials and a DUP representative. If this group did not include any political members that would not be a problem but if the Council refuses to remove the DUP representative from the Team, we will be demanding that minutes are circulated to all.”
Cllr Cochrane concluded, “Alliance has led change in the Council in terms of forcing more openness and transparency and we hope that this motion will help to provide further change in terms of making Castlereagh Council fairer, more open and transparent