Political news

Belfast City Council to review declarations of interest procedures

Belfast City Hall. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Brendan Hughes

BELFAST City Council is to review its procedures on councillors' declarations after it could not say when interests were disclosed.

The council refused to provide, through Freedom of Information requests, copies of declaration forms and the dates they were submitted by councillors, saying the details were available for inspection at city hall.

However, when The Irish News examined the forms at city hall the vast majority had not been dated or signed by councillors.

In January a council official said around half of Belfast's 60 councillors had not submitted their declaration forms – almost a year after the new council was formed.

Two councillors had still not provided completed forms when the record was checked last month.

But the council has refused to detail the dates councillors submitted their forms.

On Monday April 4, councillors agreed to have the declaration forms published online for the first time.

But Alliance councillor Paula Bradshaw says the party's proposal led to an influx of declaration forms.

"It is interesting since Alliance first raised the issue of publishing member interests online, suddenly many of the outstanding forms appeared before council officers," she said.

"Why so many elected representatives believed they could ignore rules set to increase openness and transparency is beyond me, but the fact they believed they could makes me question what they were trying to hide."

Belfast council said it meets its obligations under local government legislation.

"Going forward the council will review its procedures to ensure that the date on which a declaration or alteration is made is recorded," a spokesman said.

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