Craigavon Borough Council has a grant of £50 to conserve and display the head of a giant Irish deer in its museum project at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre – but the project is being kept ‘secret’ from the ratepayers.
A council member, who told the ‘MAIL’ about the “ridiculous secrecy that permeates the Civic Centre”, revealed a series of “matters that should never be anywhere near the confidential business agenda”.
“It’s almost laughable,” said the member after last Tuesday night’s council meeting. “The principles under which confidential business used to be conducted was simply private staff issues and land matters. But officers have taken over, and they – not the elected members - decide.”
Other “confidential matters” hidden from view included the ongoing DSD support for the council’s bushcraft project. It includes outdoor activities like camping and water sports and has cost £628,000 over the past three years, with £313,000 from the DSD, £42,000 from the Department of Education, and the rest from council coffers.
Said the councillor, “We received confirmation that the support is to continue, but it seems the ratepayers have no right to know.”
Then, there is £93,000 from the DSD for the Sport in the Community project – the likes of MUGA all-weather areas and street soccer. The council’s public minutes said, “Details can be found in the schedule of confidential business at the back of the minutes.” These are not available to the Press.
The Heritage Lottery Fund also offered £24,000 towards the overall museum project commemorating World War One – it is broken into various sections like ‘Home Front’, ‘Dig for Victory’, ‘Rural Life’, ‘Suffragette Movement’, ‘WW1 Music and other aspects. Again, the council wants to keep it a secret.
And the ‘back of the minutes’ section also showed that council cafes are making a profit – one was in the black to the tune of £16,500.
Said the councillor, “These are just the ‘secret’ minutes of the leisure service committee, and other areas of council business are also ‘confidential’.”
He added, “Much of the money is aimed at the museum, with some councillors – who supported the closure of the main museum and Waterside House - actually praising the museum staff. Hypocrisy at its most astounding.”