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Stormont hit with £1m coronavirus cleaning bill

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Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities

Deirdre Hargey, Minister for Communities

Stormont's own coronavirus cleaning bill is set to top £1m.

Hundreds of offices that once housed civil servants, who are now working from home, are having to be deep cleaned before their return.

The cost of the specialist treatment since lockdown began is set to exceed £1m, heaping further pressure on an Executive already struggling to balance the books.

The scale of the cleaning bill can be seen in a written response by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey to an Assembly question by People Before Profit's Gerry Carroll.

She told the West Belfast MLA that her department alone has spent an added £277,000 on virus sanitation since March.

"My department is committed to and will continue to provide additional cleaning within offices for as long as they are necessary to ensure the safety of my staff," she added.

The Department of Communities is the biggest employer at Stormont with over 7,000 staff dealing with jobs and benefits. It has large offices in the Great Northern Tower and Gasworks site in Belfast.

While the Assembly's eight other departments do not have the same level of manpower the combined Covid-19 cleaning costs for each is understood to total more than £750,000, bringing the overall figure past the £1m mark.

"It's another financial blow for every department as this is something that wasn't budgeted for," said a Stormont source.

However, one big winner in all of this is Aramark - the billion dollar company that provides cleaning services at Stormont. It was awarded the contract for 420 of Northern Ireland's civil service and public sector sites in January 2020.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy told the Assembly last month that each government department is responsible for managing Covid-19 cleaning arrangements for buildings occupied by their staff.

He said: "All departments have been asked to carry out a health and safety risk assessment of their office accommodation.

"The assessments will dictate the standard and frequency of cleaning required. Department of Finance does not have sight of other departments' risk assessments or the impact any additional cleaning services will have on their contract costs."

Belfast Telegraph