Concern over councillors failure to declare interests

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South Down Assembly candidate John McCallister, has voiced his concern at claims that almost two thirds of councillors in Northern Ireland have failed to publicly declare property and business interests.

Mr McCallister, who is running as an independent Unionist in the election, stated that it is further evidence that the devolution of planning services has not been appropriately handled.

He said: “I am deeply concerned that the Irish News has discovered that 11 Councillors in Newry, Mourne and Down have undisclosed companies and 10 Councillors in Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon have undisclosed companies. This is on top of some 30 councillors in each council with no land or property declared.

“With the devolution of planning to local councils, these basic declarations are of paramount importance and of basic principle. Public declarations of property and business interests are supposed to give rate payers confidence that Councillors are not making planning and other decisions for personal benefit.

“In the absence of such declarations rate payers will quite understandably have limited trust in the new processes.

“I would urge both Newry Mourne and Down and the ABC Councils to review their procedures on councillors’ declarations as soon as possible.

“The Minister for the Environment and the Chief Planning Officer have shown dangerous levels of complacency with regards the devolution of planning and I believe a review is now overdue.