THE SDLP, Sinn Fein and the UUP have challenged Craigavon Borough Council’s two MLAs - Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson (both DUP) - to give up their Civic Centre seats “and stop double jobbing”.
All six MLAs for Upper Bann are past and present council members, the two DUP men, John O’Dowd (SF), Jo-Anne Dobson (UUP), Samuel Gardiner (UUP) and Dolores Kelly (SDLP). The other four, however, have long since turned their backs on council work in favour of concentrating on Stormont.
Councillor Joe Nelson (SDLP) said it was his party’s policy to quit double jobbing, and that DSD Minister Alex Attwood had made it clear it would end with the super-councils starting in 2015 when Craigavon will be joined by Armagh and Banbridge. “I can’t see how they can do both jobs properly,” said Mr Nelson. “It isn’t much of a vote of confidence to their younger councillors. They should vacate their seats and let the younger councillors gain experience on their own bat.
“Alderman Moutray and Anderson often arrive late to Monday night meetings, having been held up at Stormont. Once or twice their colleagues have actually held up the business in the hope that they’ll arrive before an important decision. Dolores Kelly plumped for Stormont and new blood moved in to the Civic Centre.”
Councillor Kenneth Twyble (UUP) agreed this was the case, adding that the unionists, who are in the majority by 15-11 in Craigavon, actually lost a recent vote for a proposal to meet the parades commission over Drumcree, due to DUP absentees. “Their late arrivals do them and their party no credit at all,” he added. “The UUP made a party decision that Jo-Anne Dobson should move on and Colin McCusker should be co-opted, while Samuel Gardiner fought just the Stormont election last time as he would not even consider double jobbing.”
A statement from Sinn Fein members said they did not understand why Moutray and Anderson were “hanging on to their council seats”. It added, “It makes no sense. The new councils will have more powers and the younger members should be left to learn the ropes by experience. Most of the power is vested in Stormont and the decision by the two members to remain councillors doesn’t really add up.”
Alderman Moutray retorted that his and Alderman Anderson’s business experience was a bonus to the council, “especially as we give our services free and save the council £20,000 in councillors’ fees for a start”. He added, “We have a lot of experience as accounts’ scrutineers and in general council business, which we have accumulated over the past 11 years - and we are making a useful contribution in the current and past setting of the rates.
“We have the party’s approval in remaining in Craigavon council, and as this is the last session, we see no reason why we shouldn’t spend the last few months in continuing to make a positive contribution to the life of Craigavon Borough Council. I would also point out that Alderman Anderson and I topped the poll in the last council elections, he in Portadown and I in Lurgan, and the electorate was fully aware that we were both members of the Assembly. The people spoke and we answered.”