“there is an unacceptable conflict of interest..”

According to the BBC report, the Northern Ireland Environment Minister, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, MP, MLA, Cllr, who also has responsibility for Local Government, has announced, at Westminster, that he will not legislate to prevent MLAs also holding seats on Local District Councils. [Shouldn’t he have told the Assembly first? – Ed] Indeed. Instead he plans to reduce the councillor’s allowance available to MLAs by two thirds. From the BBC report

He says it is an issue for individuals and the political parties. Speaking from Westminster the East Antrim MP said his planned change to the regulations would focus the minds of his Assembly colleagues who sit on councils. “Having a council seat in your own constituency is clearly very useful. However it would then be up to MLAs to decide if they want to do this for just a nominal amount of money”.

Mr Wilson who divides his time between Westminster, East Antrim, and Belfast believes he is able to carry out all his duties effectively. Arlene Foster MLA his predecessor as Environment Minister resigned her council seat when she took the Environment brief. However he says he is quite happy that there is no clash of interest in being a councillor and Minister.

Update It’s worth noting that on 10 March the NI Assembly debated the issue of multiple mandates.
Since then, of course, Arlene Foster has been re-elected as a councillor. And allow me to remind you of the conflict of interest identified by then Secretary of State, Peter Hain.

In the future, the Assembly will have a role in overseeing the performance and financing of local government. I believe, in these circumstances, there is an unacceptable conflict of interest if the same people are sitting in both the Assembly and Councils.

Update It’s worth noting that on 10 March the NI Assembly debated the issue of multiple mandates

And they then resolved

Resolved (with cross-community support):

That this Assembly notes that the issue of multiple mandates, including council membership, is to be further considered by the Assembly and Executive Review Committee; and believes that a phased approach to this matter represents the best way forward.

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