Make-up of new policing partnership is ‘inherently unfair’ – Dunn tells council

A NEW row has broken out at Larne Council over the proposed membership of a new policing partnership.

Policing and community safety partnerships (PCSPs) are new statutory bodies that will be established under the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2011, combining the work of the current District Policing Partnerships (DPPs) and Community Safety Partnerships (CSPs). It is expected that they will be up and running by spring 2012.

Each local authority is required to nominate eight, nine or 10 elected representatives to sit on PCSPs, reflecting the balance of parties prevailing in each council area after this year’s election earlier.

During previous council terms in Larne, nominations to such partnerships have been made on a power sharing basis, ensuring a representation from all parties and independent members.

As previously reported, at October’s meeting of the policy and resources committee, councillors were asked to select the membership of the local PCSP based on a number of different methods.

SDLP councillor Martin Wilson proposed that the council should opt to have 10 elected members on the PCSP under a power sharing system, which would have ensured all parties gained representation on the new partnership. This was seconded by independent councillor Roy Craig.

However, DUP councillor Gregg McKeen expressed concerns about the balance of membership under power sharing, stating that his party would lose out on positions if this method was adopted.

He instead favoured an eight elected member option using the D’hondt method, which is based on the number of council seats held.

This method would see the DUP gaining four seats, Ulster Unionists and Alliance gaining two seats each, and the other parties and independents having no representation on the PCSP.

Cllr McKeen’s motion was seconded by fellow DUP member Cllr Drew Niblock, and carried by six votes to four.

After the vote, councillor McMullan arrived at the meeting and apologised for being late, then expressed his disappointment at what had just taken place.

He said it was “a sad day for council” and added that if the local authority was trying to send out a message of inclusivity, it had not been demonstrated by this decision.

When members were asked to ratify this decision at their November monthly meeting, the rift in the chamber was evident.

Independent councillor Brain Dunn said the proposed make-up of the new partnership was “inherently unfair”, claiming that it “smacked of a carve-up between the political parties who are just looking out for themselves”.

Councillor McMullan said the D’hondt method had been selected as a way to “keep Sinn Fein off” the new partnership.

And he urged members to show that there was “a team spirit” within Larne Council by ensuring that all sides were given representation.

“The real losers in all of this will not be Sinn Fein, it will be the public, as they expect everyone to be represented in this new partnership,” he added.

Councillor McKeen reiterated his support for the D’hondt method and said: “If the system is good enough for the Assembly, then it should be good enough for Larne Council”.

In the end, the issue was deferred until Monday’s meeting of the policy and resources committee.