Belfast Telegraph

Wages bill for workers in Northern Ireland's First Ministers' office is two-thirds of total for President Obama's staff

By Adrian Rutherford

The cost of running Stormont's top department is more than two-thirds the bill for staffing the White House, it has been revealed.

In the past year Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness's office spent £16.6 million on wages.

The Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister employs 367 civil servants.

That is just 87 fewer than Barack Obama's administration in Washington, and double the 184 in Prime Minister David Cameron's office.

The figures were revealed by TUV leader Jim Allister.

Mr Allister queried: "Do Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness really need twice as many staff as the Prime Minister?"

The 367 OFMDFM staff include:

  • 124 in the Equality and Strategy body.
  • 55 in Executive Services.
  • 36 in the Executive Information Service.
  • 12 in the North/South Ministerial Council.

The 36 people employed in the Executive Information Service include five Press officers specific to OFMDFM.

Mr Allister pointed out that journalists regularly find routine questions go unanswered for "inordinate periods of time".

He also noted that staffing numbers had increased in recent years.

"Incredibly, given the cutbacks which have hit the public sector when it comes to front line services, the number of staff in OFMDFM has actually grown since I last asked about the issue in 2011," he added.

"Then OFMDFM employed 358. Today the figure stands at 367.

"By way of contrast, earlier this year it was revealed that the Prime Minister employs 184 civil servants.

"Mr Robinson and McGuinness also employ 124 staff in the Orwellian sounding Equality and Strategy directorate.

"This 'directorate' has grown by almost 50% since 2011. Ask the owners of Ashers bakery about equality in Northern Ireland. And where has been the evidence of 'strategy' when it comes to OFMDFM?

"Does anyone genuinely believe that Northern Ireland can justify such a bloated office, one which seems to do little other than feed the ego of our joint First Ministers?"

In 2011 the New York Post reported Obama's White House employs 454 people with an annual cost of $37,121,463 (£23.5m).

OFMDFM said only a small number of staff in the department work directly to the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister.

It said comparison with the White House was "erroneous" as OFMDFM is a "functioning department" with a range of directorates.

Factfile

OFMDFM staff:

  • Office of the Head of the Civil Service: 7
  • Resources, Regeneration, International Relations and Institutional Review: 99
  • Executive Services: 55
  • Executive Information Service: 36
  • North/South Ministerial Council: 12
  • Equality and Strategy: 124
  • Office of the Legislative Council: 17
  • Planning Appeals Commission and Water Appeals Commission: 15
  • Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments: 2

Total: 367

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