Belfast Telegraph

Supermayor Mairtin O Muilleoir: His diary is so full he needs extra staff

By Rebecca Black

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir is expected to be given four new members of staff – to help keep up with his frantic pace of engagements.

Currently, the Lord Mayor's unit – which also looks after deputy Lord Mayor Christopher Stalford and High Sherriff Lydia Patterson – is comprised of eight full-time staff members.

But a council report has found the staff are regularly working over their hours and even have to take work home to cope with the workload.

This has in part been due to several major recent events, such as the visit of US President Barack Obama, as well as the freedom of the city events for Dame Mary Peters and Van Morrison.

The Review of Lord Mayor's Unit reported back to the Strategic Policy and Resources committee that there are "long-standing excessive working hours issues within the unit".

It said the objectives of the review were to create a "fit for purpose service and staffing structure to ensure delivery of future needs in the changing civic and corporate environment", as well as to "enhance and maintain the high quality service to the Lord Mayor, Deputy Lord Mayor and High Sherriff".

The unit is currently staffed by seven full-time permanent staff and one temporary member of staff.

The committee adopted the recommendations of the report, which included creating four new posts at a cost of £130,000 up until April 2015.

These new posts include an operations manager, democratic services officer (diary management and civic events), support assistant and parlour attendant.

The City Council is expected to approve this decision at its meeting tonight.

The current Sinn Fein mayor's pace of life is clear to see from following his Twitter account, which reveals a whirlwind of civic engagements.

Alderman Jim Rodgers, who has been Lord Mayor twice in 2001 and again in 2007, said he noticed a change in the types of duties between those two terms.

The Ulster Unionist representative said he set the record for the number in engagements undertaken by the Lord Mayor in a year in 2001 and then again in 2007.

His day as Lord Mayor typically started around 7.30am each morning and often went on into the early hours of the following morning.

"The office has taken on a different role," he said.

"There are more events being held, less dinners, less functions but it has been taken in a new direction.

"The staff are doing different types of work from what was happening previously, like writing speeches. Before, some speeches were written by the Lord Mayor's unit – now the majority of them are."

Alderman Rodgers said he was normally against increasing public service staff numbers, but said that this time he agreed it was necessary.

"I firmly believe the public sector is over-manned," he said.

"I am on record as saying about the massive increases in staff at Belfast City Council, and the same would apply to our Executive departments at Stormont.

"But on this occasion, I have been convinced that the staff we are looking for are needed. Maybe not long-term, but certainly short-term."

However, Alderman Rodgers was cautious about praising the current Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir.

Indeed, he criticised the Lord Mayor's decision to attend the re-opening of Woodvale Park where he was attacked.

"There are times when you maybe want to go somewhere but you need to seek advice," he said.

"Whilst you are Lord Mayor I firmly believe you should be beyond politics.

"You do need to listen to people and take advice rather than being headstrong."

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