Belfast Telegraph

Do Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness need an office with twice as many staff as Prime Minister David Cameron?

By Samuel Morrison

This week the TUV revealed that in spite of cut backs to frontline services, such as hospitals, the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister continues to grow both in terms of the size of its wage bill and in terms of numbers of staff.

Back in 2011 there was widespread surprise when a question from TUV leader Jim Allister revealed that staff in the office jointly headed by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness were paid a total of £16,000,000.

Three years later the wage bill has grown by over half a million pounds.

OFMDFM staff costs are equivalent to two thirds of those run up by the White House.

In 2011 Mr Robinson and McGuinness employed 358 civil servants. Today they have 367 on the books.

In contrast David Cameron manages to get by with a mere 184.

It is interesting to consider the areas in which these 367 staff work. 124 – equivalent to two thirds of the staff in the Office of the Prime Minister – work in the Orwellian sounding “Equality and Strategy Directorate”.

The number of staff employed in this area has almost doubled in the last three years. Given recent events impacting on a family run bakery in Belfast I am sure I am not the only one who wonders if we are living in a more equal Northern Ireland than three years ago.

Furthermore, in light of the fact that a budget had to be rushed through at one minute to midnight in order to prevent the collapse of Stormont one really does have to question what the people working on “strategy” had been doing for most of the year.

Also included on the OFMdFM payroll are no fewer than 36 members of the “Executive Information Service”.

Given that legitimate questions from journalists to the Office of the Joint First Ministers can go unanswered for weeks that too is a quite astounding figure.

The question which Northern Ireland needs to ask is a simple one.

Do Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness really need a publicly funded office with twice as many staff as the Prime Minister?

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