MLA accused of interfering in council business after spat over Christmas music

Alderman Arnold Hatch.
Alderman Arnold Hatch.

A veteran Ulster Unionist councillor has lambasted a DUP MLA for interfering in council business instead of working at Stormont.

UUP Alderman Arnold Hatch is furious after a DUP MLA called Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council demanding to have the Christmas music switched off less than a week after Christmas.

Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

MLA Carla Lockhart caused intense debate after she called for Christmas music, pumped out over town centres in Upper Bann, to be muted.

She said that people were ‘fed up listening to it and the time has passed for it to be played’.

Mrs Lockhart claimed traders and shoppers had been complaining.

“I spoke with Council this morning (January 3) and requested that it is turned off. They are in contact with the company to have it muted ASAP!” said Carla with the hashtags #depressing #santaisnotcomingtotown.

A spokesperson for the council said soon after that they can confirm the music will be switched off that day.

It caused uproar on social media with some agreeing with the MLA and others furious that she had little to do.

However, veteran councillor Arnold Hatch believes she was out of touch with the community and business.

Cllr Hatch, who is involved with Portadown Chamber of Commerce, asked: “What authority had Carla Lockhart to ask the Council to switch of the Christmas music two days before the contract ended?

“I think it is preposterous from someone who is not a councillor or a Director of ABC council to demand such action,” Alderman Hatch said.

“I will be demanding answers from Council officials when they return to work on Monday.

“I understand the complaint came from Lurgan, yet the music in Portadown was turned off too,” said Alderman Hatch.

“Ms Lockhart’s DUP colleagues agreed a programme nine months ago which would create an attractive atmosphere for visitors and shoppers to cover Christmas and the New year. This included piped music in Lurgan and Portadown which was to finish on 4/5th January 2019.

“I want to know how many complaints there were, who took note of the complaint(s) and who authorised the music to cease.

“I certainly received no complaints from Portadown Chamber of Commerce. In fact, many agreed it helped to create a Festive atmosphere in the run up to Christmas and through to the January sales,” Ald Hatch said.

Asked for a response Ms Lockhart said: “I think he will find if he speaks with businesses and people who live in the town centre he will get a very strong feel for the frustration caused by the music playing from early morning to 9pm at night one week after Christmas. Music was not the issue but the choice and I would have thought Council would have adopted the music repertoire after Christmas.

“Mr Hatch has known me for a long time and can call me at any stage to discuss how elected reps conduct themselves. In his investigations he will find that the Lurgan Mail used the word ‘demand’ and I simply asked would Council consider turning the music off given that businesses and residents were frustrated. They informed me that they too had received calls in relation to it and they then obliged,” she claimed.