Northern Ireland

DUP urged to end boycott as it's revealed that dormant assembly has cost more than £30m

Staff and energy costs at Parliament Buildings have topped £30m since the DUP pulled the plug. Picture by PA
Staff and energy costs at Parliament Buildings have topped £30m since the DUP pulled the plug. Picture by PA Staff and energy costs at Parliament Buildings have topped £30m since the DUP pulled the plug. Picture by PA

Running costs of tens of millions pounds for the Stormont assembly during its latest period of dormancy are "another example of how the DUP's boycott is literally draining resource and energy from everywhere", it has been claimed.

New figures show staff and energy costs for Parliament Buildings during the period that the devolved institutions have been suspended are more than £30m.

The expenses include almost £1m in energy costs and three salaries of more than £100,000.

There have been just a handful of brief sittings at the assembly since Paul Givan resigned as first minister in February last year. MLAs and their staff have continued to use their offices at Parliament Buildings for the past 21 months, while tours for the public are still taking place. 

The DUP is boycotting the institutions in protest at the Northern Ireland Protocol. 

A response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Irish News reveals that staff costs for the assembly in the 21 months since the DUP walked out have remained roughly at the same level as when the institutions were functioning.

Staff costs for the financial year 2021-22 were just over £20m, while in the following year they were £19.8m.

For the first two quarters of this year staff costs have totalled £10.3m.

Read more: Former DUP leader Peter Robinson warns unionists that not all demands will be met

DUP Stormont boycott compounds suffering of flood-hit communities says Sinn Féin MP

In addition to the £100K salaries paid to its chief executive, the director of legal, governance and research services, and the director of parliamentary services, the assembly has 90 full-time equivalent staff whose annual wage is greater than £50,000.

Meanwhile energy costs for Parliament Buildings during the latest period of dormancy are close to £1m. Electricity costs for the last financial year were £545,000, while so far this year it has cost £164,000 to keep the lights on.

Oil for central heating in the last financial year cost £246,500 and £ 38,200 so far this year. 



SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said the level of spending on the dormant assembly highlighted the need o restore the institutions at the earliest opportunity.

"Hot house talks have traditionally had a role in restoring the executive but there will be no sympathy from the public for this level of utility spend while household energy costs run high," the South Belfast representative said. 

"It's another example of how the DUP's boycott is literally draining resource and energy from everywhere. Parliament Buildings is a working building and public sector workers deserve appropriate conditions but there's a void in political leadership that needs to be addressed now."

A spokesperson for the Assembly Commission said the current political circumstances were outside of its control but that it had a duty to ensure business could be resumed on short notice and that staff had been working on projects in preparation for a return of normal business.

"The Assembly Commission also has a duty to support all of the meetings and activities ordinarily undertaken by MLAs, outside of the formal sittings and committee meetings, which continue and are supported by assembly staff in a range of areas," the spokesperson said.