Northern Ireland news

DUP councillor Linda Clarke faces 'conflicts of interest' watchdog probe

The DUP's Trevor and Linda Clarke with party leader Arlene Foster
Brendan Hughes

A WATCHDOG has received a complaint against DUP councillor Linda Clarke over alleged conflicts of interest in the planning process.

It comes after The Irish News revealed Mrs Clarke did not declare an interest and continued to take part in votes for planning applications lobbied on by her husband.

The code of conduct requires councillors to withdraw from discussions where they have a "pecuniary interest, direct or indirect", and declare significant private or personal non-pecuniary interests.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards confirmed a complaint was received yesterday.

"We have received a complaint that a councillor in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council breached the code of conduct in relation to alleged conflicts of interests. The complaint is now being assessed," he said.

It follows an Irish News investigation revealing that Mr Clarke is running a sideline business lobbying on behalf of planning applicants.

The South Antrim MLA has rejected concerns that Versatile Consultancy is a conflict of interest.

Mr Clarke lost his assembly seat in March 2017's election, but was selected in June that year to replace Paul Girvan after he became an MP.

Mrs Clarke did not absent herself from a planning committee meeting in May 2017 when her husband made representations on two applications, and no declarations of interest were made, according to the minutes.

The applications did not involve Versatile but in correspondence on one of the proposals, Mr Clarke told officials he was "working alongside the agent who is currently out of the country".

The DUP has said Trevor and Linda Clarke, who no longer sits on the planning committee, will "work with any statutory investigation to prove they made all the relevant declarations and adhered to all rules".

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