Northern Ireland news

Jolene Bunting disqualified from being councillor for three years

Former Belfast city councillor Jolene Bunting (Niall Carson/PA
Rebecca Black, PA

Former Belfast representative Jolene Bunting has been disqualified from holding the office of councillor for three years.

Northern Ireland’s local government watchdog made the ruling after finding Ms Bunting had breached the local government code of conduct.

Ms Bunting was elected to Belfast City Council from 2014 to 2019, initially for the TUV and later as an independent unionist, and became involved in Britain First.

The complaint to the Local Government Commissioner for Standards was made against her by Britain First leader Paul Golding.

Assistant commissioner Ian Gordon found that Ms Bunting had wrongly claimed she had been fined by Belfast City Council for a stunt involving the then deputy leader of Britain First Jayda Fransen being filmed in ceremonial robes and sitting in the Lord Mayor’s chair.

Mr Gordon also found that Ms Bunting had altered her council payslip to make it appear as though a deduction of more than £500 was for the fictional fine, when in fact it related to deductions for her use of a council mobile phone.

Mr Golding had agreed to pay the fine which Ms Bunting said she received, and made two payments on separate dates amounting to £115 before realising that there was no fine.

After hearing all the evidence, Mr Gordon was satisfied that the payslip sent by Ms Bunting as proof of her alleged fine had been amended by her so that the words “members phone repayment” next to the amount of £545.38p could not be seen.

He found that her actions had breached the local government code of conduct and that her conduct had brought her and her position as councillor into disrepute.

He ruled that a disqualification for a period of three years was a necessary and proportionate sanction.

Ms Bunting is entitled to make an appeal against the ruling to the High Court.

Northern Ireland news