With the Assembly’s Committee on Standards and Privileges announcing a public consultation of their proposed amendments to the MLAs’ Code of Conduct [pdf file], in the Belfast Telegraph David Gordon has a triptych of updates on previous stories of MLAs and their constituency offices. DUP MLA Ian Paisley Jnr’s part-time [rate-free] office [added new link] is no longer rate-free [Are you there, Nevin? – Ed] while UUP MLA Billy Armstrong’s conveniently situated pre-fab is, likewise, no longer rate-free – both will receive back-dated bills. And the new combined constituency office for DUP MLAs Ian Paisley Snr and Jnr, as well as effectively being bought with public funds, apparently doesn’t have planning permission to be an office.. Is that brand damaged yet?From the first Belfast Telegraph report linked in the post
A DFP spokesman said: “Based on the latest information available and considering that the property is still occupied by the Bushmills Community Group, the District Valuer has concluded that while the original decision to grant exemption was correct, exemption is now no longer appropriate.
“Therefore, the District Valuer issued a Certificate of Revision on May 9, 2008, removing rates exempt status from the occupiers of the property. The effect of this decision has been backdated to April 1, 2007.”
The 1998 application for exemption was made by a body called Bushmills Community Advice Centre.
Moyle DUP councillor Davy McAllister has been involved with this organisation from that period. He is also a member of Mr Paisley Jnr’s Assembly-funded staff.
Mr McAllister yesterday said the advice centre was likely to re-apply for exemption.
“Our committee is not just up to date so we are reforming our committee. We are getting our stuff all put together and we will more than likely reapply,” he said.
A Freedom of Information disclosure issued earlier this year stated that £2,100 is being claimed in rental expenses annually from the Assembly by the DUP for the Bushmills address.
Mr McAllister has stated that the community advice centre is a voluntary operation, and that Mr Paisley Jnr’s part-time advice centre is based in a back-room.
“If I’m sitting in the front office, I’m sitting in a voluntary capacity. “If I sit in the back office, I’m sitting working for him,” he recently said.