Published on Tuesday 20 March 2012 12:59
EAST Antrim DUP MLA David Hilditch has rejected an Ulster Unionist call to give up his seat on Carrick Council.
Former UUP councillor Roy Beggs MLA threw down the gauntlet following last week’s announcement by Alliance representative Stewart Dickson that he is to quit the Antrim Street authority this summer to concentrate on his Assembly role.
Welcoming Mr Dickson’s decision to stop double-jobbing, Mr Beggs said: “Over a year ago, I took a clear decision to stand for the Assembly and not to stand for a second public office as a Councillor at the same time.
“No one can be in two places at the one time. I welcome Stewart Dickson belatedly giving up double-jobbing, even though the electors in Knockagh are now going to have a co-opted councillor whom they did not actually elect. It would have been more democratic if like myself he had put himself forward for only one role.
“However, serious questions must be asked of David Hilditch, who is now the only East Antrim MLA still serving and as a councillor. Last year, he indicated that if he stood for council and Assembly he would serve on a voluntary basis and save the ratepayers money by not claiming council allowances. Has he been drawing down a second publicly funded council wage? Is he costing ratepayers in terms of a second public representative pension? Has he been claiming local government travel cost?”
Mr Beggs went on to draw attention to a DUP website item under the title ‘Hilditch is willing to be a Councillor on a Voluntary Basis’ which, he claimed, appeared prior to last year’s election
Picking up on the latter, Mr Hilditch said this seemed to relate to a story from a newspaper in which he was allegedly “misrepresented at the time”.
He went on to clarify his stance on the so-called double-jobbing issue: “If the legislation would allow me to sit on and remain on Carrick Borough Council in a voluntary capacity I would be quite happy to do that. That’s what I stated at the time. Nothing else has appeared in electoral material, which I pointed out at the time.”
He continued: “I advocated a reduction in the councillors’ budget in lieu of just myself getting a reduction and Ulster Unionist council colleagues said ‘no’.
“I have no fears of being a councillor and sitting in Stormont. This is the same MLA who spoke to me at Stormont and said to me he’s not complaining about the free time he has now that he’s off council. He was there for 12-13 years.”
Mr Hilditch, whose party controls Carrick Council with support from the UUP, suggested the challenge may have been to deflect from the latter’s leadership issue.
“I would be concerned that he’s attacking a fellow unionist in a week in which Ulster Unionists are exposed as a factious grouping interested in back-stabbing each other to the very end.”
In his concluding comments, Mr Hilditch said that he was keen to see major Carrick Council projects coming to fruition in the months ahead.
“There’s a lot of stuff coming on stream which I think is very important. It’s hard work but you do it because of a love for the place.”
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