Auditor to examine council redundancies

Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. DER2114MC150
Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. DER2114MC150

The Local Government Auditor is to be invited in to examine all redundancies from Derry City Council over the past 36 months.

The proposal was voted through at the February meeting of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council in the Guildhall on Thursday, despite accusations that it was part of a conspiracy theory.

Independent Derry-Strabane Councillor Gary Donnelly proposed the motion to the effect that “in the interests of transparency and accountability this Council would invite the Local Government Auditor to examine the procedures and processes surrounding all redundancies from Derry City Council over the past three years, to guarantee that there was no unfairness and full equality of process”.

The motion added that “this will protect Derry City and Strabane District Council going forward”.

The proposal was seconded by fellow Independent Councillor Darren O’Reilly.

UUP Councillor Derek Hussey suggested that the matter was a legacy issue to do with Derry City Council as opposed to the new super council, and questioned whether they should even be considering the motion.

Council chairman Maoliosa McHugh said however that he had accepted it on the grounds that there may be a relevance to the new council.

Speaking to his motion, Colr. Donnelly said there had been considerable negative controversy in the media and wider concerns regarding redundancies from voters and indeed some council staff.

“No-one should have any concerns that we support the principles of accountability and transparency,” he said, adding: “We should start as we mean to go on.”

SDLP Councillor Gerry Diver said that it was questionable whether this was a matter for the new council, and said his party could not accept or support the motion as proposed.

He added: “Within the motion itself it’s implied there is some wrong doing or some great ill that needs to be discovered by the Local Government Auditor.”

He said that council processes were subjected to a high degree of scrutiny, and warned that some people seemed to want to “jump up and down” and engage in “huge conspiracy theories”.

“Derry City Council has put more of its business into the public domain probably more than any other local authority in the north,” he said, adding:

“I don’t want to burst the bubble of the big conspiracy theory but this a very regulated business.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue proposed an add-on amendment to the effect that “this council reaffirms the principle of good governance in all aspects of council business” and welcomes the fact that there is a regular report of governance and procedures by the Auditor General, “and where there are allegations of any breach of these principles then they should be subject to the rigours of due process as agreed by Derry-Strabane Council”.

Colr. Logue said that in the last three annual audit reports for Derry City Council there has been no issues of concern raised, and said there seemed to be a baseless smear campaign against Derry City Council.

Independent Councillor Dee Quigley said there seemed to be a “wee bit of paranoia” around the issue.

“This has got to do with moving forward,” he added.

DUP Councillor Drew Thompson said he agreed that this was an issue for Derry City Council, and said his party would support neither the motion nor the add-on amendment.

The amendment and the motion however went through after all 20 Sinn Fein and Independent Councillors voted for it, while all 15 SDLP, DUP and UUP Councillors present voted against it.