Political news

Green Party councillor attends first council meeting in six months

Green Party councillor Georgina Milne
Brendan Hughes

A GREEN Party councillor has narrowly avoided being struck off Belfast City Council due to absenteeism.

Georgina Milne, who works as a research scientist, last night attended her first council meeting in almost six months.

Under local government laws, a representative ceases to be a councillor if they do not attend meetings for six consecutive months and their absence has not been approved by the council.

Ms Milne – who as a councillor sits on two committees and one outside body – had last attended a council meeting on September 4, according to council minutes.

The council confirmed Ms Milne has continued receiving her annual council wage of around £14,000.

Ms Milne, who represents the Ormiston area of east Belfast, was selected by the Greens to replace Ross Brown after he stood down in 2016.

The Green Party last week told The Irish News that Ms Milne's workload has "taken its toll on her council attendance" and she does not intend to seek re-election in May.

A spokeswoman praised her "strong contribution" as a councillor and wished her "every success in the future with her career and as a party member".

"The party is in the process of appointing a candidate for Ormiston," the spokeswoman added.

A Belfast City Council spokeswoman said: "Under Section 9 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972, if a councillor fails to attend any meeting of the council, a committee or a sub-committee, or as a representative on an outside body for a period of six consecutive months from the date of their last attendance, they shall, unless the failure to attend was due to some reason approved by council, cease to be a councillor."

Meanwhile, another council has said an independent unionist councillor's prolonged absence received "formal approval".

Carol Black, who is elected to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, has not attended any council meetings for more than six months.

Ms Black did not respond to requests for a comment yesterday.

A council spokesman said Ms Black's absence "has been given formal approval by full council as outlined in Section 9 of the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) 1972".

The council refused to say when Ms Black last attended a meeting. It also refused to say when her absence was formally approved, or what reason was given.

Ms Black quit the UUP in February 2017 over then party leader Mike Nesbitt saying he would give the SDLP his second-preference vote in the assembly election.

Earlier this year she posted online saying she would not be seeking re-election and thanked people for their support.

"I am leaving the council after serving 14 years – moving on to something very exciting," she said.

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