Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Environment Agency spends over £30,000 on hotels

By Adrian Rutherford

Further details of officials being wined and dined in five-star hotels at the taxpayers’ expense have emerged — this time at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

Staff stayed in a range of plush hotels during visits to locations including Holland, Belgium and Poland.

Since September 2009, NIEA spent £30,869 on hotels, according to documents released under a Freedom of Information request.

The expenditure includes £508 on a three-night stay at the five-star Crowne Plaza in The Hague last September.

The hotel’s website states how guests can “enjoy the excellent service and luxurious amenities”.

“Order drinks from 24-hour in-room dining and enjoy them on your balcony overlooking lush parkland or the ever-changing Hague skyline,” it adds.

On another occasion, a further £208 was splashed out on a two-night stop at the Sheraton Poznan in Poland.

The hotel boasts how guests will find top quality service and a friendly atmosphere, “not to mention the most distinguished comfort”.

NIEA staff also stayed at the Metropole Hotel, also rated five-star, during a two-night visit to Brussels last month.

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew called for a full review of Stormont’s expenses.

“Politicians have rightly been under the microscope in recent years in terms of their expenses, including travel and hotel bills,” he said.

“The spotlight should also be shone on all Government departments.”

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment said five-star hotels were used only when absolutely necessary.

“On those rare occasions when NIEA staff have stayed in five-star hotels, this has been because of the absence of alternatives at the time of booking or when special rates have been available for Government officials,” she said.

“The latter applies to the booking at the Sheraton Poznan.”

Last month the Belfast Telegraph reported how Stormont ministers, MLAs and senior civil servants had enjoyed five-star hospitality during costly trips around the world.

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