'Absent' councillor is still being paid

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

COUNCILLOR Kevin McAteer has been paid around 5,000 since announcing his 'resignation', by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDC), despite failing to attend a single council meeting since January.

The Newry councillor, whose council wage is covered by the ratepayer, announced in March that he would step down from the role due to health reasons but he has so far failed to formally hand in his resignation.

NMDC councillors receive an annual basic allowance of 14,200 (1,183.33 per month) and come the end of June, Councillor McAteer will have earned at least 5,916.65 since February.

A council spokesperson confirmed they do not have any power regarding councillor attendance and that "it is a matter for individual councillors themselves".

"Councillor Kevin McAteer remains a councillor with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and is paid in accordance with the council's Scheme of Allowances for Councillors," added the spokesperson.

"The last recorded attendance for Councillor McAteer at a council meeting was January 30, 2017."

The Newry Democrat had asked the independent councillor if he felt he should be attending council meetings until he officially handed in his resignation, especially as ratepayers cover his wages, but failed to get a response.

Councillor McAteer had previously said: "Unfortunately, my stand down date has been put back as I have been finishing off some cases for some constituents, which are currently going through the appeals process, which can take time. Until then I am still a councillor.

"Furthermore, I was unable to attend meetings due to work and family commitments."

The delay in his resignation was originally blamed on a fall out with the SDLP, who can co-opt their own councillor if and when Councillor McAteer resigns, as he was elected as an SDLP councillor before leaving the party in April 2015.

Mr McAteer believed the legislation regarding co-opting was "ambiguous" and that he could select his own successor but the Electoral Office confirmed that the SDLP have the only right to do so.


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