A stay at a five-star hotel in China which boasts “rainforest showers”, a bottled water from a mini bar costing £8, an extra-large double cheese burger in Burger King and driving one mile to Enniskillen Townhall and claiming 65p are just some of the £6,500 expenses claimed by the former Chairman of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Howard Thornton held the position of the District’s ‘First Citizen’ from June 6, 2018 until May 31, 2019 and in that time claimed a total of £37.20 in car parking, £23.29 in food, £76.12 for changes to a flight while attending a reception at Buckingham Palace in a personal capacity, £506.31 on a trip to China and £5,895.58 in mileage, including travelling two miles to Duffy’s Circus on the Sligo Road and returning home at a cost to the ratepayer of £2.60. 
While the then Chairman claimed expenses, as he was entitled to do so, the then Vice Chairman John Feely of Sinn Fein claimed no costs during his time in office. 
Following a Freedom of Information Request copies of Chairman Thornton’s receipts have been obtained by The Impartial Reporter and show a wide-ranging list of events and expenses.
He claimed allowance for driving 163 miles in total to attend a review in Castlereagh of the Chief Executive’s pay in June 2018 at 65p per mile and later that month for driving 153 miles to open a Council seminar on Libyan Refugees at Enniskillen Castle Museum, attending an awards ceremony at Lisburn Civic Centre and then a meeting of the Regeneration and Community Committee at Enniskillen Townhall. 
He launched Enniskillen 100 Road Races at Enniskillen Castle Museum claiming 65p to drive there and back from his house and another 65p to get to the Lakeland Forum to launch Enniskillen 10k.
Chairman Thornton also attended the launch of Open Golf in Omagh plus a meeting with Place EE at Lough Erne Resort followed by a photoshoot in Craigavon and an event for Brook Charitable Group in a community centre in Omagh. He closed the Mid Ulster Drama Festival in Carrickmore, attended an event at Loughmacrory Community Centre and an RAF association conference at the Killyhevlin Hotel and a service at St. Macartin’s Cathedral. 
He also travelled to a reception for the Royal British Legion at Enniskillen Townhall from Omagh and claimed back the mileage. 
Chairman Thornton attended Duffy’s Circus on the Sligo Road as a “civic guest” with a voluntary organisation and claimed mileage for the four miles it took to get there and back from his home. On another occasion he claimed 65p to drive to Enniskillen Townhall to “sign documents” and drove 58 miles to Omagh and back again to greet Prince Charles at a cost to the ratepayer of £37.70.

Impartial Reporter:
During a Council engagement he travelled to China where he stayed at the Furama Hotel Dalian which according to its website boasts a fitness centre, a spa and wellness centre, mini golf course and six dining options. The modern-inspired guestrooms feature “chic interiors and quality furnishings” and each spacious unit is fitted with a TV with cable and satellite channels and mini bar which Chairman Thornton availed of by drinking a bottled water costing £8.38. En suite bathrooms at the five star hotel have rainforest showers, bathtubs and superior toiletries. There are also relaxing sauna facilities, massage services and karaoke facilities available. 
During his year in office Chairman Thornton also claimed back money for food, including a six-ounce cheese burger with tomato relish costing £4.25 and chips at £2.75 at a takeaway in Antrim, a latte at an airport in France costing £3.90 and an extra-large double cheese burger, medium fries and a medium diet coke costing £7.19 at Burger King in Lisburn.
All councillors are entitled to be reimbursed in this way and there is nothing untoward about the former chairman’s expenses.