Political news

Meetings of Belfast City Council groups which help allocate funding 'should be recorded'

Meetings of Belfast City Council working groups should be recorded to make funding allocations more transparent, an Alliance councillor has said

MEETINGS of Belfast council groups which help allocate funds should be recorded, an Alliance councillor has said.

Peter McReynolds told a meeting of the full council last night that the public should be able to listen to audio recordings of all four area working groups to make funding allocations more transparent.

The groups, which are split into north, south, east and west Belfast, decide on money for projects in each area.

However, some councillors have hit out at a lack of transparency.

In November, the Audit Office told the council to review a multi-million-pound fund for community projects amid concerns over how money is distributed.

The watchdog said a review of the Local Investment Fund (LIF) should "assess and consider the appropriateness and effectiveness of this method of funding projects".

During a brief debate last night, Mr McReynolds told the council it must be more open.

"I have seen first-hand the positive work the East Belfast Area Working Group carries out by funding worthwhile organisations but most decisions taken there see the groups receive the allocated funding," he said.

"This makes the transparency of the working groups all the more important, by letting the public know how decisions and funding allocations are decided.

"I want to see this council raise the bar once more and be as open and transparent to the public as possible, demonstrating we respect their hard-earned money and we allocate it in an open, fair and transparent manner."

SDLP councillor Tim Attwood, who supported Mr McReynolds' motion, said there was an opportunity to tackle social deprivation in a new way.

“We can do what we’ve always done in terms of allocation of funds or we can do it differently,” he said.

The motion will now be discussed at committee.

Last year a row erupted over plans to reallocate a £4m funding pot to nine projects in east and west Belfast without a public bid process.

Alliance accused the DUP and Sinn Féin of a "political carve-up" over the City Centre Social Outcomes Fund, but the two parties rejected the criticism, saying the funding will boost tourism.

Meanwhile, DUP councillor Gareth McKee has resigned from the council after saying he has moved to new full-time employment.

The councillor for Oldpark, who was elected in 2010, said it had been a "great honour" to represent the area.

DUP leader on the council, Lee Reynolds, thanked Mr McKee for his service.

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