Northern Ireland news

Ratepayers could 'lose faith' in controversy-hit Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

Sinn Féin's James McKeown has demanded further clarity from Mid and East Antrim Borough Council following a police search at its Ballymena offices. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Paul Ainsworth

RATEPAYERS could "lose faith" in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, it has been warned after a police raid on the local authority's Ballymena offices.

A special meeting of the council was held last night, at which a PSNI swoop on its Bridge Street headquarters on Wednesday was discussed behind closed doors.

The raid was carried out by members of the PSNI's Criminal Investigation Branch as part of an investigation into "suspected offences of misconduct in public office and under the Freedom of Information Act 2000".

A council spokesperson has said it is "fully assisting the PSNI with its enquiries".

The operation followed months of controversy at the unionist-dominated council, and came a week after a trade union call for Stormont to step in and run the local authority, claiming members had no confidence in the current leadership.

Following last night's meeting, Sinn Féin councillor James McKeown warned that the council risked losing the trust of ratepayers as well as members.

"I have emailed the mayor to ask for further information as this goes on," he told The Irish News.

"The longer the debacle continues, the more the council becomes a focal point for negativity, rather than for us doing the job we are supposed to be doing. If this is dragged out, then people will lose faith in what we as a council can deliver, and that would undermine the hard work of members."

He added: "I hope there's a swift resolution to this, so that we can get on with the job that we were voted in to do."

Councillors also discussed the interim leadership of the local authority at last night's meeting. Mid and East Antrim Chief Executive Anne Donaghy has been off on sick leave since last month.

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