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Council expenses reveal value of Alliance

March 21, 2005 12:00 AM

Castlereagh Alliance Councillor Michael Long has revealed that on average Alliance Councillors have cost ratepayers £7,745.27 less than Ulster Unionist Councillors over the past four-year term and £6,948.94 less than DUP Councillors over the same period.

The figures show that the average UUP Councillor has obtained £29,300.67 in expenses and allowances from the Council in the past four years to date, DUP Councillors £28,504.34, whilst Alliance Councillors an average of only £21,555.40.

Councillor Long, whose own total was less than £19,500, said that the figures demonstrate that Alliance Councillors provide better value for money for ratepayers, given that their attendance levels at special and full Council meetings have been broadly similar to their Unionist counterparts.

Cllr Long said: "Whilst I was expecting Alliance to have a good record on expenses and allowance, because the DUP and UUP have carved up all of the special responsibility allowances between them, even I amazed by the scale of the differential.

"Given these figures, it is no great surprise that Unionist Councillors are so reluctant to have them made public. I was only able to obtain the information when the Freedom of Information Act came into being at the start of the year.

"On average, a UUP Councillor will cost almost £2,000 per year more than an Alliance Councillor, and the average DUP Councillor costs over £1,700 a year more.

"We hear a lot from the DUP about their record of prudence in Castlereagh Council when it comes to providing services for ratepayers but it would seem that they are not quite so keen to tighten the purse strings when it comes to themselves. The top three Councillors in terms of receiving payments all come from the DUP, with one Councillor receiving over £40,000, more than double the amount I received.

"However, even the DUP cannot match the higher figures for UUP

Councillors, who have done very nicely out of their decision to oppose the fair allocation of positions amongst all the parties by carving up paid Chairmanships and positions on outside bodies between themselves and the DUP.

"My own area, Castlereagh Central, provides further evidence of the differential. Whilst I received the lowest total of £19,496.12, the UUP

Councillor received over £27,000 and the three DUP Councillors, including Peter Robinson, who also has an MP's and MLA's salary, averaged out at almost £31,000.

"Whilst Alliance Councillors are paid less, we have very good records for attendance at Council and local public meetings, and we believe that we are amongst the hardest working Councillors, delivering tens of thousands of information leaflets to constituents over the past four years.

"Perhaps, in future, when attempting to make savings for ratepayers, the Unionists would be better off looking at how to cut their own expenses rather than trying to cut services to ratepayers, as the UUP and DUP attempted to do when proposing the temporary closure of the Robinson Centre two years ago."

The figures cover the financial years 2001/02, 2002/03, 2003/04 and from April 2004 to January 2005. Therefore, councillors who sat on the previous Council, will have additional payments for the periods before the Council election in June 2001. The figures are gross and deductions from members for tax or national insurance will vary according to personal circumstances, some having tax deducted at 40% others at 22%.

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