Complaint made to standards watchdog after DUP councillor's Cricket World Cup trip
THE local government standards watchdog has received a complaint after a DUP councillor took a short break paid for by Belfast International Airport weeks after proposing to adopt a recommendation to refuse a planning application from a rival business.
The Irish News revealed last week that Phillip Brett, the DUP's group leader on Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, attended a Cricket World Cup match on May 30 as part of a trip valued at £2,000.
It took place six weeks after he proposed to follow a recommendation by council planners to refuse permission for an extension to a family-owned car park close to the airport.
Mr Brett received tickets for a cricket match, return flights, a two-night hotel stay and “associated hospitality” valued at £2,000 in total.
It is not known when the trip was arranged and there is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Mr Brett.
The DUP has not clarified details, saying only: “Councillor Brett has complied fully with the requirements of registering hospitality.”
A spokesman for the Local Government Commissioner for Standards has now confirmed a complaint is being assessed.
“We have received a complaint about a councillor in the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council in relation to an alleged conflict of interest,” he said.
“The complaint is now being assessed.”
It is understood that after an assessment is made a decision will then be taken on whether to launch a full investigation.
Sinn Féin has already said it will seek advice from the standards watchdog while the SDLP said it intends to invite the oversight body to the council.
Details of the trip are listed in the council's Hospitality and Gifts Register for Elected Members.
It shows that a second councillor, former Ulster Unionist South Antrim MP Danny Kinahan, also went on the break.
Mr Kinahan was elected to the council in May, after the planning committee vote.
Mr Brett works in the office of North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds and describes himself on Twitter as a “senior staffer”.
His brother Gavin was shot dead by the UDA close to his family home in Glengormley in 2001.
Belfast International Airport has declined to confirm which elected representatives took part in the trip or when it was arranged.
It had objected to the car park application and a QC representing the business spoke at a planning meeting on April 15.
The application included a change of use from farm buildings and yard to provide an extension of existing commercial parking for users of the airport.
Planners said the applicant had not demonstrated “that there is a need for the facility nor has any need been identified in any published transport plan”.