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Fury over Stormont’s £10k a week drinks bill

By Liam Clarke

The Executive has spent nearly £10,000 a week on hospitality since 2006 and plans to spend £400,000 on photography this year, it has been revealed.

The highest spending department on entertainment is the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM), which clocked up a £826,760 bill in the five-year period.

Jim Allister, the TUV leader, claimed: “These figures demonstrate once again just how out of touch Stormont is with the needs of ordinary people — particularly at a time when many are finding themselves out of work or suffering pay cuts.”

Mr Allister uncovered the figures as part of his ongoing efforts to identify areas where savings could be made in Executive spending. The entertainment costs come in response to a series of written questions by the TUV MLA.

But, he claimed: “Most departments did not include hospitality provided by their arm’s-length bodies when responding to my question.

“So the overall figure will be much higher. I already know from a previous answer that Invest NI alone, for example, spent £2m in just five years.”

Within the figures there is evidence of some reduction in recent years.

The highest hospitality bill, £1,228,533 across all departments, came in 2008/09.

Mr Allister said: “Yes, there has been a measure of reduction in spending of late, but across the departments, the squander is still far too high.”

He hit out at claims by Peter Robinson, the First Minister, that the media were being too critical of the Executive and not putting enough stress on good news.

“Last week Peter Robinson lamented Stormont’s lack of control of the media in spite of the fact that the Executive spends almost £5 million a year on Press officers,” he said.

“Today we learn that Stormont awarded an ‘estimated’ £400,000 contract split between six firms for the ‘provision’ of photography services on January 26 this year,” Mr Allister added.

“The next time members of the public see a minister beaming out of the paper at them, they will no doubt remember that they paid handsomely for the privilege.”

Factfile

Total spent on hospitality in Stormont departments 2006/2007 -2010/2011

OFMDFM: £826,760

DRD: £283,833

FINANCE: £609,000

EDUCATION: £291,000

CULTURE: £220,019

HEALTH: £688,800

EMPLOYMENT AND LEARNING: £225,572

DSD: £333,820

ENVIRONMENT: £457,051

ENTERPRISE: £103,307

AGRICULTURE: £103,307

JUSTICE: £37,666 (2010/2011 ONLY)

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