CASTLEREAGH Council is paying a DUP councillor £13 per minute to Chair a committee that has only met for a total of only 100 minutes in the past six months – an average of less than 17 minutes per meeting.
At the most recent meeting of Castlereagh Council, Alliance Councillor Michael Long called for the scrapping of the Council’s Civic Committee, one of six standing Committees. However, this has been put on the long finger until the Council’s next AGM in six months.
Cllr Long, who serves on the Committee, believes that scrapping it and transferring its responsibilities – for matters such as Borough Freedoms and the Sister Cities programme – to other Committees could save ratepayers on expenses. Currently, the Chair of the Committee receives a special responsibility allowance of over £2,600 per year, whilst Councillors attending the meetings each receive attendance allowances.
Cllr Long said: “After the June meeting of the committee, which lasted less than five minutes, I decided to investigate whether we really needed a separate Civic Committee at all. Looking at the length of recent meetings, there would appear to be a strong case for scrapping the committee. Meetings in the last six months have lasted on average less than 17 minutes. I believe that its responsibilities could easily be transferred to another committees, saving ratepayers a fortune in expenses.
“The £2,600 given to the Chair, Mark Robinson, would equate to a rate of £13 per minute if the length of meetings in the past six months was repeated in the next year. Whilst some Councillors argued that the money would have to be reallocated to other Chairpersons, I have since discovered that this need not be the case at all.
“If the Council decided, Chairpersons need not be necessarily paid the maximum allowance and the money could be spent on services – as it should be. However, such a decision can only be taken at the next AGM.
“At a time when the standards and privileges enjoyed by councillors is under the spotlight, I want to see ratepayers’ money spent primarily on providing proper services for ratepayers, not on supporting councillors. I will, therefore, be calling for a review of the future of the Civic Committee and hope that other members will agree that time is up for its five minute meetings.”