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‘UUP look awfully weak’ and need to ‘explain themselves’ over working groups vote

Councillor questions UUP stance, claiming it gives 'majority' to non-unionist parties

A Portadown councillor has called on the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) to explain its decision not to back a proposal to change how seats on the council’s working groups are assigned.

During a meeting of the local authority’s governance, resource and strategy committee, UUP members present either abstained or voted against a proposal put forward by  Independent Councillor Darryn Causby.

The proposal would have seen the council assign the first 10 seats on its behind-closed-door working groups via the d’Hondt system, with a further two seats on each working group assigned to the Alliance Party and Independent councillor Paul Berry.

The committee instead chose to support Sinn Fein group leader, Councillor Liam Mackle’s proposal to ensure Councillor Causby has a seat on the working groups but make no further change until the current process for assigning seats has been peer reviewed.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, Councillor Causby described the decision taken by UUP councillors as “fairly bizarre” and called on the party to explain its thought process.

“I just don’t understand why the UUP seem to be allowing those working groups to be controlled by the SDLP, Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party,” he said.

“With the numbers the DUP, UUP and Paul Berry have they would have the majority and I don’t know why they are handing it to their political opponents.

“I have no idea why they would do that and they need to explain themselves. The democratic wish of the borough is that unionists have a majority on council but that is being undermined on working groups.”

Councillor Causby also expressed concern as to how the council will recognise the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee next year given the working group that will discuss ideas will not have a unionist majority.

“These working groups might not be decision-making bodies but, believe me, they are a significant influence in terms of shaping policy and council direction,” he said.

“An example of that is the NI Centenary working group. My colleagues tell me it was a very difficult working group. If a vote was taken the DUP and UUP rarely, if ever, won and then officers worked up proposals based on the majority view of the working group.

“This means the papers are not reflective of the majority view of the council. The next big event is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and we are going to be looking at a nationalist majority on that working group.

“The UUP need to come out and explain why they are willing to allow this deviation from the democratic wish. There is a reluctance to change a recommendation that has been agreed in a working group.

“This was a chance to correct something that is wrong. To not do it now has made the UUP look awfully weak. My proposal was not silencing anyone, it would have simply ensured the democratic wish of the borough was reflected in council’s working groups.”

The UUP have been asked for comment.

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