Belfast Telegraph

Tour guides latest victims of deadlock at Stormont

By Staff Reporter

Tour guides at the Assembly have lost their jobs thanks to the political crisis.

As Stormont's political parties struggle to resolve their differences and restore powersharing, it is understood that up to 13 agency workers have so far been affected by the impasse.

It is believed that two of the staff worked as tour guides at Parliament Buildings.

Several contracts were terminated on Friday, with more potentially under threat.

An Assembly spokesman said the requirement for agency staff had "diminished". "We use agency workers from time to time, depending on business needs," he added." The requirement for agency workers is reviewed on an ongoing basis and is adjusted in line with business needs.

"At this time, the Assembly's requirement for agency staff has diminished and an adjustment has been made to the numbers."

The Assembly would not confirm the number of agency workers affected or their job roles, but a source claimed 13, including two guides, had lost their jobs.

Coincidentally, it emerged yesterday that the snap General Election meant that Westminster officials are expecting a visitor windfall during the campaign period due to the extra time they have to offer tours.

Dissolution to bring an end to the current Parliament is expected on May 3, meaning MPs revert to being members of the public and have a few days to clear their desks before their security passes for the Palace of Westminster are deactivated.

With a snap election called for June 8 and Parliament not predicted to return until mid-June, officials have an unexpected six-week window in which they can offer extra tour slots as both the Commons and Lords chambers will not be in use.

The two chambers are key parts of the 90-minute guided tours, which cost between £11 and £28 depending on the visitor's age and whether they pre-book tickets, with children under five being allowed in for free.

A parliamentary source said they wanted to "maximise the openness of the palace" to enable as many people as possible to learn about its history and to ensure emergency restoration works can take place.

They also said the hundreds of extra people expected through the doors means they "hope to make thousands of extra pounds".

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