Belfast Telegraph

Expired leases could save £2.5m

£800,000 set aside for administration of the voluntary exit scheme

The government could save around £2.5 million a year when significant property leases run out.

Stormont's finance scrutiny committee was told that substantial savings could be made over the next five years when rental agreements on a number of large buildings expire.

Brigitte Worth, a director with the Department of Finance and Personnel, said: "Ultimately we are looking at £2.5 million of lease savings being realised as a direct result."

The claim was made during a briefing on potential bids for the June monitoring round where cash strapped departments are allocated additional funds carried over from the previous financial year.

DFP is seeking around £1.5 million for a dedicated team of staff to oversee the property project.

It will also include transferring properties from arms length bodies and other departments to streamline administration costs.

Ms Worth said: "There's piece of work there that needs to identify what those properties are; how much they cost to run and then affect a legal transfer between those other organisations and DFP.

"We are also looking at the future of the office estate.

"There are a number of significant leases that expire between now and 2020 so, that would enable a team of people to look at how we can better plan for exiting some of those significant leases where there are large buildings that we are exiting."

Finance Minister Arlene Foster had initially been listed to brief the committee on budgetary issues but was not available.

Meanwhile, it was also revealed that £800,000 has been set aside for the administration of the voluntary exit scheme proposed under the stalled Stormont House Agreement.

DUP MLA Jim Wells said: "You are saying that you are spending extra revenue on the voluntary exit scheme. But, is that not at risk - dependent on the £700 million coming through on the Stormont House Agreement.

"How much are you risking for something that could possibly not actually happen."

The power-sharing administration at Stormont is crisis over the implementation of welfare reforms and yesterday's crunch talks between the Executive parties, British and Irish governments failed to find a resolution.


From Belfast Telegraph