Row over jobs rocks Magherafelt Council

Magherafelt council
Magherafelt council

The Sinn Féin grouping on Magherafelt District Council has strongly denied Unionist claims that they behaved inappropriately by attempting to make ten temporary administrative jobs permanent within the outgoing council.

The DUP and Ulster Unionists accused the controlling party on the council of ignoring advice from the Local Government Reform Joint Forum (LGRJF) to local authorities not to make permanent posts during the last year of those councils.

Sinn Féin say their proposals are in the best interests of the citizens of the district and called for an end to the political ‘bickering.’

Magherafelt will be amalgamating with Cookstown and Dungannon Councils’ to form the new Mid-Ulster District Council next April.

Although the staffing matter was dealt with in closed session, DUP Councillor Paul McLean decided to go public in order to “expose the illegal and reckless behaviour” of Sinn Féin.

He said: “This process is another ‘in committee’ ploy when they have tried to have staff employed at this late stage in the existing last few months to facilitate staff on short term contracts to be brought in through the back door,” he claimed.

“This process started some time ago when it became apparent under RPA that councils were going to merge and there was a possibility of redundancies amongst certain ‘risk elements.’

“The LGRJF was set up to make sure processes and procedures were in place to which councils should work to, however on this occasion Sinn Féin has not only rode a horse and chariot through these agreements but have completely ignored all advise from the Staff Commission in both letters and emails to achieve their objective.”

He said they have requested that the Chief Executive takes legal advise on the issue as we believe the council could be surcharged for such reckless behaviour.”

Ulster Unionist Councillor George Shiels expressed his concern.

The UUP councillor said: “The Staff Commission together with representatives of Councils and Unions through the Joint Forum advised outgoing councils not to make new permanent employment posts during the last year of those councils.

“Now Sinn Féin has decided to ignore the latest advice of the Staff Commission and through sheer weight of numbers forced a proposal through last night’s (Tuesday) council meeting, effectively - in my opinion - breaking the law. I was not prepared to support their stance and I believe there will be legal repercussions.”

Sinn Féin group leader Councillor Sean McPeake claimed it was acceptable within the guidelines to create ‘new posts’ in clearly defined circumstances and they did not act contrary to legal advice by any party.

“Unionist parties within the council, and in particular the DUP have been vehemently opposed to Sinn Fein stewardship on many council related matters, particularly in relation to creating more better service provision for the citizens we represent and the well being of our council staff in such areas as creating whistle-blowing policies,” he said.

“Sinn Féin’s proposals are complimentary to Lestas report and are in the best interests of the citizens in our district. We must pull together now and implement Council’s decision. Attempts at cheap political points scoring are never attractive and are even less so when all the facts clearly indicate that the basis of the attempts are fundamentally flawed and incongruent with the legitimate interests of local ratepayers and local employees.”