Some SDLP councillors opposed to levy increase

SDLP councillor Malachy Quinn
Connla Young

SDLP councillors have urged party chiefs to means test a proposed increase in cash contributions to its coffers.

Elected councillors were recently told of plans by the party hierarchy to increase their yearly levy by £140.

Under the proposal councillors will be asked increase their contribution from £360 to £500.

Some members of the party have reacted angrily to the planned hike.

An elected representative, who does not want to be named, told the Irish News that some councillors have indicated they are not prepared to pay the increased levy.

“It came as a bolt out of the blue, there was no discussion about it,” the councillor said.

“I could not afford to pay it.”

It is understood that after a meeting of the party's Association of Councillors, held in Belfast last weekend, it was decided to ask party bosses to means test the proposed increase.

While many councillors have full time jobs others rely solely on the basic allowance they earn from being a councillor, which is a maximum of £14,485 a year.

Chair of the association and Mid Ulster councillor Malachy Quinn last night said the party has “often had increases” and the issue is an “internal party matter”.

“As a democratic organisation, we debated the proposal to increase the levy at the recent meeting of our association along with a range of different issues,” he said.

“We sent back a proposal to our management committee that any levy increase be means tested to protect councillors on low incomes."

A spokesman for the SDLP said: “The SDLP Councillor Levy has been increased by 1 percent of the basic annual allowance paid to councillors.”

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