UUP pair made fifth of Belfast council mileage claims

Ulster Unionist councillors Sonia Copeland and Jim Rodgers
Brendan Hughes

TWO Ulster Unionist councillors account for more than a fifth of the mileage claims at Belfast City Council.

Jim Rodgers and Sonia Copeland have claimed £1,353 and £1,148 respectively in mileage allowances in the past year.

There are 60 councillors on Belfast City Council who in the year 2015/16 made mileage claims totalling £11,670.

It means Mr Rodgers and Ms Copeland each made about a tenth of all mileage claims – about six times the £194.50 councillor average.

Mr Rodgers, a former Belfast lord mayor, lives in Holywood while Ms Copeland resides in Ballygowan, according to Electoral Office submissions. Both are about a half-hour drive away from Belfast City Hall.

Overall representatives on Belfast City Council were paid more than £1m in allowances during 2015/16.

Last week a majority of councillors voted against a one per cent increase in councillors' £14,200 basic annual pay.

Alliance councillor Michael Long hit out at the mileage expenses.

He branded the UUP's "clueless financial strategy at city hall" as "mumbojimbonomics", citing how UUP representatives were among a minority who did not back a councillor pay freeze.

An Ulster Unionist spokeswoman said: "Belfast City councillors must operate within strict guidelines when making mileage claims. Alderman Rodgers and Councillor Copeland's claims have been made within those guidelines.

"The costs cover the councillors' travel from their homes to meetings of the council and their respective committee meetings."

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