All parties will have seats on new policing body

ALL parties on Larne Borough Council will be represented on the body that will replace the existing district policing and community safety partnerships.

After weeks of political wrangling, the policing and community partnership (PCSP) will comprise 10 councillors and nine independent members and in its first year will be chaired by DUP alderman Winston Fulton, who is the present DPP chairman.

As the biggest party on the council, the DUP will have three seats on the new body, the Ulster Unionists and Alliance two apiece and there is a seat each for TUV, Sinn Fein and SDLP. Independent councillor and serving DPP member Roy Craig has also been voted on.

The issue had threatened to fracture relations on the local authority, which in recent years has adopted power-sharing arrangements, the most recent being agreed at a conference in Newcastle, Co Down, soon after the council was elected in May.

Unionists had originally opted for a 15-person PCSP, with eight councillors on the panel, and they insisted on council appointments being made by the d’Hondt system, which would have meant four DUP seats, two each for the UUP and Alliance and none for the other parties or independents.

SDLP councillor Martin Wilson complained that nationalists would lack political representation on the PCSP and urged that they should boycott it, while former councillor Oliver McMullan claimed it was a ploy to block Sinn fein involvement.

Guidance was sought from both the Policing Board and the Department of Justice. The board advised that, by law, council representation on the PCSP must reflect the political composition of the council. The Department’s guidance has not been published.

At Monday’s monthly meeting of the council, policy and resources committee chairman Roy Beggs surprised opponents of the proposed PCSP format by proposing adoption of the 19-member model.

“I can tell you that those of us who chose d’Hondt did so because we believed that in the economic situation of the country as a whole it was our responsibility, as far as we could, to arrange for a committee and at the same make sure it was going to be efficiently run, at minimum cost in bureaucracy,” said the UUP alderman.

“But we have since learned that there are not going to be several thousand pounds to each of the members as occurred in the past and that has been clarified.

“That removes the necessity, in our opinion, for a smaller committee and leaves a situation where in fact, instead of an eight-member committee, we can have a 10-member committee and we have no objection to that being the way forward,” he added.

On the proposal of Ald Beggs, seconded by DUP councillor Gregg McKeen, the council resolved accordingly. It was agreed that the DUP would have the chair in the first year, the UUP in the second and Alliance the third year, by which time the life of the present council will have expired. Should there be an extension, as happened with the previous administration, TUV - for whom Ald Jack McKee topped the poll and recorded the fourth-largest party vote - would have the chair.

After chief executive Geraldine McGahey asked for clarification on which of the numerous adoptions for committee formation the council had agreed, Ald Beggs replied that it was “the Larne way”.