Booze removed from councillors’ fridge

Cllr Robert Hill
Cllr Robert Hill

Councillors have resolved that drinking alcohol during official business is inappropriate and also removed drinks from their fridge.

The move comes after University area representative Robert Hill drank an alco-pop in the council chamber during a public meeting last month.

The DUP man - dubbed Bacardi Bob by his fellow party colleagues - admitted to taking “a sip” from the bottle, during the lengthy meeting which debated the issue of dog control matters in front of a packed out public gallery.

Following the revelations in the Times, which were later reported across Northern Ireland and in the mainland UK, a number of councillors and council officials are said to be angry that the reputation of the council has been harmed by the episode.

At the Policy and Governance meeting held last Wednesday, June 19, councillors resolved that drinking alcohol should not happen in the council chamber and that there would be no such drinks in the members’ room fridge.

Alliance councillor Tom Campbell said: “I raised the issue of whether we needed to revise our standing orders to make it clear that alcohol should not be consumed in the council chamber during meetings.

“It seems incredible that this issue should have to be raised but this incident has occurred, hence the need to seek clarification.

“Following a discussion in which the chief executive referred to the councillors’ code of conduct, and with members indicating that it would not be appropriate in any circumstances to consume alcohol in meetings, we decided that there may not be a need to change standing orders to explicitly ban this.

“We also decided that it is inappropriate that there is alcohol in the members’ room fridge and this practice will be ceased.”

He went on: “The council’s reputation has suffered as the result of the perception that councillors are able to access alcohol for free and bring it into meetings or to otherwise consume when we are carrying out business.

“This should be a professional working environment and we should act in an appropriate fashion during such times.”

He added: “What we did again raise was that Alliance councillors have deeply resented the smear that we were behind the alcohol story.

“We didn’t offer him alcohol nor did we make him drink it and we did not leak this incident to the media, who were in any event present immediately behind the councillor during the entirety of the meeting.

“I was approached by the Times for a comment and at that stage the facts were known by the journalist who wrote the story.

“I responded to that request for a statement and it is dishonest for some to distract attention by suggesting party political machinations.”

A council spokeswoman said alcohol would remain in the Mayor’s parlour drinks’ cabinet and used only for “hospitality reasons”.

She said the alcohol that was in the members’ room fridge had been moved from the fridge in the Mayor’s Parlour because of “space restrictions”.

She said the Mayor’s Parlour drinks’ cabinet was stocked twice a year with alcohol and soft drinks at a total cost of £225 to the ratepayer.

Meanwhile, the DUP has told the Times there has been no date set for disciplinary proceedings into Mr Hill’s conduct.

A spokesman said the matter was on the agenda to be brought forward, but that had just not happened as yet. He said the party were hoping to resolve the matter as soon as possible.