Alliance Councillor Michael Long has said Belfast City Council must address how funding decisions are made, after DUP Sinn Féin funding carve up almost went unchallenged due to a blatant mistake.
The Councillor for East Belfast questioned the mechanisms that allowed both parties to work together to assign £400,000 to organisations previously handpicked by them – a decision that almost went under the radar after it was wrongly assumed responsibility had been delegated.
Speaking at the latest meeting of Belfast City Council, Councillor Long said the confusing of the Bonfire Management Programme and the Area Festival Fund was “a complete farce”. A vote to have the decision re-examined was lost 32-18.
He added: “It is completely unacceptable how this funding process has been handled. Not only have the DUP and Sinn Féin decided who should be rewarded, but they have removed the ability for other councillors to question the reasoning behind the decision.
“And then tonight we witnessed a farce which nearly robbed us of the chance to vote against the funding, something that only happened after Alliance Councillors presses the matter.
“Alliance has already raised the issue with the Audit office and in the coming weeks will be meeting with the Department for Communities to address the abusive use of the call-in procedure. We cannot be in this same position every time a funding pot is up for grabs.
“As it stands, the 12th of July is next Thursday and three groups are still to present plans, while four have put forward proposals that will do nothing to enhance the community long term. It seems if you shave the right connections that you can get access to money now and then worry about how you are actually going to spend it later.
“Alliance has major concerns around what this means for openness and transparency at City Hall. While the DUP and Sinn Féin might be happy with closed door politics. Yes, we might have lost the vote, but tonight Alliance continued to stand against any attempts to block full transparency.”