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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council being kept “under close review” – DfC

Proceedings at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are being kept “under close review”, the Department for Communities has confirmed.

A special meeting of the local authority took place behind closed doors on Thursday afternoon.

It is understood that councillors discussed a policy related to staffing.

The authority’s three directors were present in the absence of Chief Executive Anne Donaghy.

The council has said it does not comment on staffing matters.

One of the Department’s roles is to oversee and liaise with councils and develop methods to improve the administration, finance and audit of local government.

NIPSA, the largest public sector trade union in Northern Ireland, has described Mid and East Antrim Borough Council as “a toxic workplace”.

The trade union which represents almost 300 members in the council, was commenting on its survey into alleged bullying and harassment within the local authority.

In a statement, NIPSA official Alan Law said recently:

“The results should rock the council to its core. They demonstrate that the organisation needs urgent reform to bring about a culture change where staff feel able to raise concerns and where they will have confidence that these will be listened to and dealt with accordingly.”

The council has insisted it has a “zero tolerance for bullying and harassment”.

On Wednesday, the PSNI confirmed that detectives from Criminal Investigation Branch visited the authority’s headquarters at The Braid in Ballymena as part of an investigation into suspected offences of Misconduct in Public Office and under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

A spokesperson for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said that it was “fully assisting” the PSNI with its inquiries.

“As this is an ongoing investigation, Council is unable to comment further at this time.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities said:

“This is currently an investigation by the PSNI and it would be inappropriate to make further comment at this stage. The Department is keeping the matter under close review.”

Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston has called for issues to be publicly addressed and elected members to be provided with an “urgent update”.

Last month, the council agreed to forward a report by the Committee for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (AERA) to the public services ombudsman amid claims that an inquiry into the withdrawal of Mid and East Antrim Council staff from the Port of Larne in February had been misled by MEA representatives.

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