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Stormont `spad' costs break £2m barrier

TUV leader Jim Allister. Picture by Mal McCann.

The annual bill for Stormont's special advisers topped £2 million for the first time.

According to TUV leader Jim Allister, it means the average yearly cost of each of the executive's 19 `spads' is £106,000.

The revelation comes after the North Antrim MLA this week launched a bid to curtail Stormont's excessive spending on spads.

The TUV leader, who in 2013 successfully piloted a private members bill which stopped people with serious convictions from working as executive spads, plans to introduce another bill that will cut their salaries and ensure the political appointees are subject to civil service disciplinary rules.

Part of Mr Allister's 2013 bill put an obligation on the Department of Finance and Personnel to report every year on the number and cost of Stormont's spads.

"The most recent figures for Scotland and Wales are in stark contrast - the Scottish government gets by with 14 spads, which cost a total of £1,022,396 while Wales, according to figures published last year, has just eight costing £468,500.," he said.

The TUV leader said his new private members bill would cut the number of spads and limit their pay to that of a grade 5 civil servant, whose current salary band is £65,422-£78,275.

"I welcome the fact that in one department at least - Department of Environment - there has been some attempt to manage costs with the special adviser there dropping from the band B to band A," he said.

"However, the fact that this is not the case in other departments and that the bill is on an ever upward trend over all underscores the need for legislation to deal with this issue."

First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness each employ five spads, while the ministers in charge of agriculture, environment, education and culture, arts and leisure each have two. The remaining ministers have one spad each.

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