Jim Allister: SF is abusing the provision of drivers

Stormont ministers are entitled to drivers. Picture: Diane Magill

Stormont ministers are entitled to drivers. Picture: Diane Magill

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In answer to an Assembly Question from me it has been revealed that the Sinn Fein Finance Minister - presumably in common with other Sinn Fein ministers - while provided with an official car gets to employ his own Sinn Fein driver at the taxpayers expense of £34,000 per annum.

There is a pool of civil service drivers, but Sinn Fein refuses to use them, so, instead, they get the taxpayer to fund the employment of their own place-men. This is but another example of the political and financial abuse at Stormont.

At £34,000 per annum this is above the average industrial wage which Sinn Fein claims to pay its workers. So, where does the surplus go? Into Sinn Fein’s coffers, it seems.

This disgraceful situation should never have been allowed to arise. Sinn Fein should have been told there are cars and drivers available and if you don’t take them, you can make your own arrangements. But instead, previous DUP Finance ministers consented to this Sinn Fein enriching arrangement.

I am pursuing this matter through further Questions and seeking publication of the rates and terms and conditions which apply to these Sinn Fein drivers.

The question I posed was:

Q: “To ask the Minister of Finance to detail the current arrangements and costs, including the funding arrangements and costs, for the provision of official cars to Ministers and the payment of their drivers.”

The answer I got from the minister was:

A: “The provision of official cars to Ministers is the responsibility of each individual Department and the information requested is not held centrally. I am therefore replying in relation to the Department of Finance only. The Department of Finance provides an official car for my use and Sinn Fein provide the driver. The Department receives an invoice in respect of driver services in line with agreed rates, terms and conditions. The current rate is £2,807 per month, part of which is allocated for holiday cover in addition to the monthly payment to the driver.”

Jim Allister QC, North Antrim MLA, Stormont