As a new gun club facility opens we must insure that such a scandal must never be repeated says former councillor Brian Wilson. The decision by the North Down Council to add the Gun Club to the community centre at the cost of £1 million is a blatant abuse of local council powers. The decision was made without any public consultation and in the absence of the press. Indeed many of those commenting on the issue were still not aware of the existence of the gun club. We agree and believe that legislation must be introduced in the Assembly to curb such abuses by local councils.
We believe that all major capital expenditure decisions by councils should be submitted to public consultation prior to councils decision and the decision should be made at a Council meeting with press and public present.If these conditions had applied to the gun club decision it is unlikely that it would have been approved. Many councillors hid behind the secrecy in approving it.
The decision to add the gun club has now cost the ratepayers a £1 million pounds
This is a scandal as:
- There was no public consultation.
- The press and public were excluded so public were not aware of the expenditure.
- The Council ignored the Local Government Auditor’s criticism that the Council did not follow good practice and concerns at the economic appraisal
- The decision was taken by a small clique of councillors
- Councillors were given less than 10minutes to read the 21 page economic appraisal.
- The estimated rent for the £1million facility in the economic appraisal was £435 per year. It would therefore take 2000 years to pay off the capital sum and would be a subsidy of more than £2000 a member
Brian Wilson was the only Councillor to actively oppose the decision. He has stated that this abuse of council powers must be prevented in future proposes that all major capital expenditure projects should be subject to public consultation and the decisions made in public (not secret) so that so councils cannot abuse their powers by excluding the press and public.