Keep up with Armagh i

Scrutiny concerns as councillor ‘refused’ speaking rights

Concerns over a lapse in democratic scrutiny have been raised following a dispute over a council committee chairperson “refusing” another councillor speaking rights.

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) heard complaints from elected reps last week in relation to record short meetings lasting only 15 minutes.

On council agendas, items that are marked ‘For Noting Only’ do not require councillors to debate the issues, however the chairperson of a committee can allow elected reps to speak if they choose.

Mournes Alliance cllr, Jill Truesdale said: “I had requested to ask some questions at the recent economy, regeneration and tourism (ERT) committee, but was refused, which is the chairperson’s right.

“But I don’t think that anyone could see how a 16 minute meeting is a good value of time or money.

“I felt that there could have been a more respectful view shown towards my request.”

ERT chairperson, Crotlieve Sinn Fein rep, Mickey Ruane responded: “As anybody who has been on the committee from the outset would know that I do no take [comments on] those items. And I made that very clear from the first meeting I held.

“So, if the councillor had wished to have those items raised they could have approached me before the meeting, but that didn’t happen.”

The matter of concern on scrutiny was widened further as Mournes DUP cllr, Glyn Hanna threatened to take action if the council failed to address the issue.

Cllr Hanna said: “I have to agree with Cllr Truesdale, to be quite honest with you the ERT committee at the minute has got that short I am beginning to wonder if there is any scrutiny taking place at all…15 or 16 minutes for a meeting, it’s unbelievable.

“I know over this last considerable amount of time, I have been prevented from asking questions.

“There are problems on that committee and a question for the director, is why is there so little coming to that committee?

“Never before were we down to that amount of time. We, the DUP group, now have concerns.

“If the council doesn’t address the problem, we will address it in a different way.”

Local authority CEO Marie Ward responded: “We are doing a review of all of the terms of reference of all the committees and items that are going to them.

“I would suggest it is the time of year and type of business.

“We will pick up your concerns, but generally items that need to go to a certain committee will go to it.”

A council officer added: “There are peaks in agendas and in next week’s released agenda, it will be substantial because we now have the budget agreed and we can start moving forward with implementing all of the work of the coming year.”

A second request for speaking rights was made by the ERT chairperson to council deputy chairman, Gareth Sharvin (SDLP) who chaired this week’s full council meeting.

Cllr Sharvin said: “I could use the approach of Cllr Ruane and only allow a speaker in once on a particular item, but I will let him back in again.”

Cllr Ruane added: “Listen, it’s good to see the Alliance and DUP working closely together on this issue at least any way.

“But if anybody wants to go over any of the recordings (of council meetings) and see if I have stopped anyone from speaking on any item (open for debate) that was on the agenda, then they can come and show me it.”

Sign Up To Our Newsletter

Most read today

More in Newry