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Attack on Stormont spending is misinformed

The letter from Harry Cullen of the NI Conservatives (Write Back, November 15) shows his lack of understanding of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) report on property asset management in central government.

My department is fully aware of the opportunities to reduce the footprint of the office estate and has been consolidating staff into more densely populated accommodation for the last three years. This was highlighted in the NIAO report, which identifies savings of £5m per annum, already achieved through reductions in the size of the office estate.

These savings have been achieved by vacating 21 properties. They have been achieved through investments with a payback of just over 12 months.

The £17m figure quoted in the letter is also misleading. Mr Cullen obviously lifted a headline figure quoted as an 'example' without reading or understanding comments in subsequent paragraphs.

The example has been quoted by NIAO to illustrate the level of revenue savings that could be achieved by reducing the size of the estate by 25% over five years.

There is little point in investing millions of pounds to meet a revenue savings target if decades must pass before the value of the initial capital spend can be recouped.

Mr Cullen's inability to read a report intelligently illustrates why he and his party are unlikely to ever be elected to positions where they can actually make decisions.

SAMMY WILSON MP MLA

Minister of Finance

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