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Second Northern Ireland election would see costs hit £9m

By Victoria Leonard

Last month's Assembly election cost the public purse approximately £4.7m, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

That was £200,000 lower than the £4.9m bill for the May 2016 election.

It paid for staffing, venue hire, the postage costs for poll cards and postal ballot papers, printing of ballot papers, election stationery, transportation and other administrative functions.

It comes as fears grow that the political stalemate could result in a further poll in the near future, which could take the total cost of elections this year to more than £9m.

Last month's election spend was down as there was a smaller number of Assembly seats to fill - 90 rather than 108.

It meant that the counts at many centres lasted for just one day as opposed to the previous two.

Ulster Unionist MLA Steve Aiken said the fact that Northern Ireland could be staring into another election was "a scandal".

"It's shocking that we could be forced to spend upwards of £9m on two elections," he said.

"To me it's quite simple.

"We shouldn't have had to spend these amounts.

"We should have been concentrating on making a strong and effective government.

"The DUP and Sinn Fein should have sorted their issues out and we shouldn't have to potentially shoulder the cost of another election. The people of Northern Ireland shouldn't be looking at another potential spend of nearly £5m.

"I'm relatively new to politics, but when I was a chief executive a deadline meant a deadline, and it would have to be done by that stage."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry also opposes another election.

He said it "would just return MLAs to talk about the same topics".

"If other parties had shown commitment to power-sharing and positive change the election five weeks ago could have been avoided," he added.

"Similarly, if parties realise people elected them to solve the issues that matter, there is no need for another election in the coming months.

"Another election would solve nothing.

"Parties have already gone to the electorate twice in the past year."

The Electoral Commission said it could not speculate on the possibility of another Northern Ireland Assembly election.

"However, we are on standby to assist in the delivery of an election should one be called by the Secretary of State," it said.

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