Council spend £8k on trip to Somme

Doug Beattie.

Doug Beattie.

Ratepayers are footing a bill of more than £8,000 to send ten councillors to France for the Somme commemoration.

Concern was expressed at the number of councillors from Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council being sent to the July memorial.

Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

DUP Cllr Carla Lockhart proposed the move that ten tickets at £730 be purchased plus a single supplement of £100 each for the councillors wishing to attend.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Somme which was one of the bloodiest battles of World War One.

The DUP councillor also proposed the council buy four tickets at £38 each for the ABF Soldiers Charity event in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall in May.

The total spend on the two events totals £8,452.

Sinn Fein Cllr Gareth Keating said that while he was happy with the recommendation that Council be represented at both events, he was concerned about the cost.

He said he was concerned at the number of people being suggested to attend.

In his opinion, the Lord Mayor, Councillor Darryn Causby, and Chief Executive, or their nominees, should attend along with any interested Committee Chairs.

And he added that the cost of £830 per head for the visit to the Somme was high and, while it was it an extremely important event and centenary should be properly commemorated, he felt that councillors should be mindful of budgets particularly when they were trying to strike a rate and keep expenditure down.

Ulster Unionist Councillor Doug Beattie agreed as he was of the opinion that the Council should be inclusively represented rather than purchasing 10 tickets and only Unionists attending.

Councillor Beattie added that, in his opinion, tickets should be purchased with a quota for each political party and he elaborated on a suggested ticket spread.

However, Cllr Lockhart said she was still happy with her original proposal as any political parties not wishing to utilise their tickets could distribute theirs out to the remaining parties.

Council agreed to spend a total of £8,452 on both trips.