DUP Mayor’s clothing spending is at odds with ‘custom and practice’ at Mid and East Antrim Council

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A DUP mayor’s dress bill of over £2,300 was apparently at odds with the ‘customs and practices’ laid down by his council – but there was ‘no written policy’.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council made the admission after a three-month silence on its policies on expenses claimed by Councilor Audrey Wales.

His clothing spending is being scrutinized by the embattled council after it emerged he failed to release the full bill following questions ahead of the 2019 local election.

Read more:DUP woman investigating spending sent check to council leader

In January, Central and East Antrim Council did not respond to questions about its clothing spending policies for mayors.

But the local authority has now confirmed its covenant was a £500 spending limit.

“There is no written policy for the mayor’s clothing. However, all expenses are considered appropriate,” he told Belfast Live in response to a freedom of information request.

“It has been the custom and practice to allow up to £500 of clothing expenditure during a mayoral term.”

Ms Wales, DUP councilor for the Ballymena area, was borough mayor in 2016-17.

Mayors of the majority of councils in Northern Ireland are allowed to fund taxpayers to buy clothes.

When asked in an FOI request in 2019 about the mayor’s spending on Ms Wales, council claimed she had spent just £190.

But in January this year it was revealed the bill was in fact over £2,300.

Ms Wales said she sent a check at the time reimbursing her council for most expenses to stop ‘election-motivated matters’.

The check was received by the council’s chief executive, Anne Donaghy, he revealed last month. However, the check was never cashed.

Ms Wales said she sent a second check after learning the first had not been processed. It is understood that this happened at the end of last year.

The councilor said she had “at all times” acted on the “advice of council officials”.

Central and East Antrim Council launched an internal investigation in January after identifying “gaps and issues” in their responses to JTF.

The investigation is part of a number of controversies that have beset the board in recent months, including allegations of bullying and senior staff absences.

A fortnight ago police carried out a second search of the council headquarters as part of a separate investigation into suspected misconduct in public service.

And last week it emerged that the Chief Executive’s office had appointed a DUP MP from outside the borough for the Queen’s honour.

A lawyer for Ms Donaghy said the appointments process is confidential and reported “leaks” to the media.

Ms Donaghy was suspended from her job in December amid a separate investigation into allegations of bullying and harassment.

She has strongly denied any wrongdoing and is taking legal action against the council for alleged discrimination.

Read more:DUP woman investigating spending sent check to council leader

Read more:Mayors of most councils in Northern Ireland receive taxpayers’ money to spend on clothing

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