Belfast council spends £2,300 on new chief executive robe

Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie, and the council's ceremonial robes
Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie, and the council's ceremonial robes

BELFAST City Council spent more than £2,300 on a new ceremonial robe for its chief executive – because the old robe was too big.

The black ceremonial robe was purchased at a cost of £2,365 following the appointment of the council's first female chief executive, Suzanne Wylie.

The authority said the previous robe, which is "extra large", will be retained for future use.

Ms Wylie was appointed chief executive of Belfast City Council in 2014 after Peter McNaney stood down.

So far three of the north's 11 new super councils have bought new ceremonial robes, in total costing ratepayers almost £30,000.

This is despite local authorities still holding onto hundreds of robes inherited from the 26 old councils that were merged under local government reforms.

Ards and North Down Borough Council spent almost £10,000 on new ceremonial robes for councillors to wear.

It bought 10 alderman robes each costing £280.71 and 30 councillor robes at £224.25 each, according to details obtained through freedom of information requests.

The spending emerges after The Irish News in November revealed that Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council spent thousands on new robes for councillors.

A personalised number plate was also purchased for the mayoral car at a cost of almost £400.

The mayor and deputy mayor's robes each cost £935 while the others were priced at almost £550 – meaning more than £17,200 was spent on the garments.

Councillors also agreed to buy the number plate 'AN 11 BOR' for £399.

Harry Fairhead of the TaxPayers' Alliance at the time criticised the "vanity spending".

"Ratepayers will be disgusted that their council is forking out massive sums on fancy robes and ridiculous number plates," he said.

"This vanity spending has no place while services are being squeezed and savings are having to be made. The council needs to cut out its spendthrift tendencies and put any spare cash towards delivering core services."

The Antrim council mayor uses a chauffeur-driven executive Volkswagen – a similar size to an Audi A8 – which is leased at a cost of £20,000.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council said councillors agreed last March for robes to be made available for those who wished to wear them.

A spokeswoman said the new robes have an expected lifespan of 40 years and a 15 per cent discount was negotiated.

The old councils that were merged into three new authorities – Mid Ulster, Newry Mourne and Down, and Fermanagh and Omagh – did not use ceremonial robes.