Opinion divided over plan for ‘professional development policy’

Latest council news.
Latest council news.

A council recommendation for the implementation of a “professional development policy” - a proposal that could have seen councillors granted an allowance of up to £1,500 per council term to spend on personal skills training courses - has been opposed by a majority of members.

Several DUP members backed the recommendation at last Thursday’s meeting of Antrim and Newtownabbey Council. However, others raised concerns about members spending ratepayers’ money on personal development courses.

Alliance Cllr Tom Campbell, who claimed that one member is considering taking a civic leadership and community planning course costing £1,500, told the Times: “I feel that it is inappropriate to spend a sum of this nature on something like a civic leadership course. There’s nothing like experience, and that’s not something that can be learnt from a book - it takes time.

“I don’t think spending £1,500 on something like this would be a reasonable use of ratepayers’ money.”

A majority of members backed a proposal from Cllr Mark Cosgrove, seconded by Cllr Campbell, that a member/officer working group should be set up to look at the issue in more detail.

The council says the policy was aimed at ensuring members were supported to “develop the relevant knowledge, skills and experience to enable them to fulfil their role effectively.”