Probe call into payments to SF councillors

Councillor David Jones at Edenderry.
Councillor David Jones at Edenderry.

Calls have been made to probe payments to Sinn Fein councillors on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council following disclosures that other councils have been paying allowances into party funds.

The ABC Council has said it is a ‘matter of personal choice’ if councillors want their allowances paid directly to political parties.

The Department of Environment, which is in charge of council reform, wrote to councils two months ago warning them against paying councillor allowances and expenses straight to political parties.

The Audit Office is also investigating the issue after it was revealed nine Sinn Fein Councillors on Derry council have wages paid into party accounts. A councillor had faced benefit fraud charges after claiming £19,000 in jobseekers allowance despite receiving a councillors wage.

But the judge acquitted him after the court heard how his council allowance was paid straight to Sinn Fein.

The court heard he had no ‘card, no checkbook, no access at all’ to the account and that all his allowance went to the party.

Following the case involving a Derry councillor the DoE wrote to councils saying legislation ‘clearly states that councillor allowances are payable by councils directly to councillors’.

UKIP Councillor David Jones has said he is concerned at the ABC council’s response that this is a ‘matter of personal choice’. He said it is contrary to DoE and the Internal Auditors advice.

He has issued a Freedom of Information request with the Council to determine if any Councillors in the ABC Council are having monies paid to parties. “I will await the reply with interest,” said Councillor Jones.