Belfast Telegraph

Revealed: £30k a month bill to broadcast empty Stormont Assembly

It has been revealed the Northern Ireland taxpayer is forking out over £30,000 a month to watch Assembly proceedings - even though the institutions have been effectively moth-balled.

The BBC Stephen Nolan show reported that the Assembly is paying out £33,188 per month to a contractor for television broadcasting services.

A private firm provides broadcast facilities which allow Assembly chamber proceedings and committee meetings to be distributed. It is continuing to be paid despite there being nothing to show.

The BBC said its annual contract was worth £400,000 a year and there has been no payment reductions due to halt in Assembly proceedings.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was "astounded" the Assembly struck a contract with no apparent get-out clause and he was amazed that services that were not needed still had to be paid for.

"A culture of squander exists at Stormont," he said.

"Surely someone should have had the wit to think this was subject to the services being required and Stormont sitting. One would have thought that was elementary and it seems this is not the case."

Since the snap election in March, MLAs met to enroll in a sitting which lasted just 45 minutes. There has not been a meaningful sitting of the Assembly since January. Since March the political parties have been in talks on restoring the institutions.

Read more:

MLAs clock in for 45 minutes then promptly head off home 

I'm embarrassed: UUP's Stewart says salaries 'can't go on' as MLAs notch up £1.1m in pay

Mr Allister also highlighted the many other staff - such as the Hansard staff responsible for reporting on the day's events in the chamber - who were currently sat "twiddling their thumbs".

"The meter is still running and these services even though not being provided still have to be paid for," he added.

"I think it is a dereliction on the part of the Assembly Commission and those who oversaw the imposition of the contract and I do wonder how many other contracts are in a similar position.

"But we do know this, the Assembly is costing us £45million a year - and for what?

"The public are entitled to ask what they are getting in return and at this moment it is nothing and that has been the case for almost six months."

The Assembly has been asked for a comment.

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