Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

For once Stormont could be spending money wisely

There is still over-spending at Stormont. A recent advertisement for a First Legislative Counsel in the Office of the First and deputy First Minister offers a salary of up to £205,000 - but we have a highly-paid attorney-general to offer the Government legal advice. Still, it is wrong to cry 'waste' every time a penny is spent.

It recently emerged, in answer to questions from Jim Allister, that the taxpayer paid around £36,000 to send the First and deputy First Minister to North America during St Patrick's week. A total of £20,453.90 went on flights.

They stayed a week and brought five people with them - two special advisers and three civil servants.

It sounds like an outrageous jolly until you realise that much of the week was spent travelling in America with little downtime. They took a train to Washington and flew to Canada later in the week.

"In Montreal, they had meetings with [planemaker] Bombardier and others. In Toronto, they discussed construction projects, promoted tourism and lobbied airlines about routes to Belfast," one participant said.

It was an intensive effort to attract investment, the impact of which could, if successful, be measured in tens of millions. If that happens, it will seem like money well spent.

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