An Ulster Unionist councillor’s query as to whether a new DUP Assembly member “double-jobbed” has been branded “petty.”
The comments came after a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council on Monday October 5, during which the resignation of Coast Road representative Gordon Lyons was formally presented to the full council.
Mr Lyons was co-opted as an East Antrim MLA in place of Sammy Wilson, MP.
UUP councillor Andrew Park Wilson asked chief executive Anne Donaghy: “I know that by law you can’t be an MLA and a councillor at the same time any more, so could I ask, when did the resignation letter go in and when was the electoral office informed of that resignation, and if there’s a period in between was the councillor, our former colleague, still being reimbursed for that?”
Mrs Donaghy replied that she would have to come back with the details of dates.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Lyons told the Times that he had still been receiving his basic council allowance, which amounted to around £400 or £500, as well as his MLA allowance for a period between August 20 and September 7, when his council resignation took effect.
However, he stressed that he had been advised by the Electoral Office that the overlap of the two was “permissible.”
“Subsequent to my nomination to the Northern Ireland Assembly and following advice from the Electoral Office, I informed Mid and East Antrim Borough Council of the need to resign my council seat as a result of the 2014 Local Government Act,” Mr Lyons stated.
“This took effect on September 7, 2015 and allowances ceased from that date.
“To suggest that I am double-jobbing is nonsense.
“There was a brief period at the end of the summer when the two roles overlapped and which the Electoral Office advised was permissible, however the seat is vacant and the party is currently in the process of filling that vacancy and the new councillor will be in place later this month.”
Mr Lyons added that he would pay back any money which he had received in error, but that Mid and East Antrim Borough Council was responsible for any payments which had overlapped.
“I have asked the chief executive to check and come back to me to see if the figures paid were erroneous,” he stated.
“I want to make it clear that this is a period of in and around two weeks, not months or years.
“It was a short time frame and I don’t think it can be described by any rational person as engaging in double-jobbing. People in the Coast Road area and across East Antrim can be assured that I am working full time on their behalf,” he concluded.
A Mid and East Antrim Borough Council spokesman stated: “Gordon Lyons’ resignation took effect from Monday September 7, 2015. In line with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council policy, all allowances stopped on that date.”