“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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  • Mike C

    Correct me if I’m wrong, Pete, but did Sammy not say during the recent double jobbing debate that he wasn’t going to legislate to prevent MLAs being Councillors? It was certainly mentioned by a Sinn Fein MLA during the debate. So I think the Assembly is quite aware that no legislation will be brought forward.

  • This is a question which will interest the UUP and the Conservatives. Why does Wilson think he can effectively carry out his duties as an MP, as well as be a minister?

    Does he regard Parliament as just “over there” ? Something to go to only when something directly is of interest to the DUP?

  • veritas

    so much for collective responsibility!

  • Pete Baker

    Mike C

    I don’t see any record of Sammy Wilson speaking in that debate.

    But that’s not the same as this apparent announcement.

    I would also point out, and I’ll update the original post on this, that on 10 March the Assembly resolved on a cross-community vote

    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.

  • Mr. Wilson has not, of course, answered Peter Hain’s specific point about Local Government Finance and the conflict of interest.

    He cant tell the difference between a bin liner and a pocket liner

  • Paul

    Sounds to me like the DUP are scared of their shallow candidate pool

    Either that or Wilson fiddles while antrim burns

  • Expenses

    What about Margaret Ritchie? In 2008 she sat in the chamber of Down Council offices for a total off 9 hours. Her pay for the year was £9500. That equates to £1050 an hour. Nice if you can get it.

  • loki

    DUP has more a fairly deep candidate pool. they just can’t get to the light cos of all the double jobbers and family members.
    Time to do away with dual mandate.
    At some point there will be a big conflict of interest and it’ll hit the fan then. All parties are guilty of it so they sound a bit hypocritical. If the rest want to put pressure on the DUP the UP, SDLP, SF and Alliance double jobbers should quit such a dodgy practice

  • The Impartial Observer

    Double and triple jobbing arises because politics here is all about personality rather than about issues. The limited talent pool is another factor, if the DUP has such a field of capable people then why was Arelene Foster put forward as the candidate in the Fermanagh by-election? Would Labour run Harriet Harman in a similar election in Peckham or would the Tories run George Osborne in Tunbridge Wells?