STORMONT probably employs more spin doctors than the journalists employed by Belfast news organisations, TUV leader Jim Allister has said after unearthing the cost of the Executive’s press officers.
Figures released to the TUV leader in the Assembly reveal that taxpayers are paying £5 million every year to fund 161 staff in the press offices of Executive departments.
Those figures do not include the scores of publicly-funded press officers in bodies such as the Northern Ireland Office, PSNI, health trusts and quangos.
Mr Allister said: “Since coming to Stormont I have exposed a litany of examples of how Stormont squanders public money on things which deliver nothing of benefit to ordinary people. But for Northern Ireland departments to spend around £5 million a year on spin doctors seems particularly outrageous even by Stormont’s stands of excess.
“One department – the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) – spends almost £800,000 a year on running its press office while another – DSD – employs 20 staff. Across the press offices of the departments who have responded to my questions a total of 161 staff are employed.
“Even allowing for some of those staff being in administration roles it looks like Belfast might well have more press officers than journalists.
“It is testament to the failures of this Executive that it has to spend such a vast sum of public money on propaganda and employ a small army to feed the press stories in an attempt to play up its incredibly meagre achievements.”
The North Antrim MLA added: “It is an absolute scandal that at a time when Stormont is discussing plans to close schools and hospitals across our Province – I think particularly of the threat to the Causeway Hospital which is so important to the people of North Antrim – £5 million can be found to pay for spin doctors.”
At the time of going to press the OFMDFM press office had not responded to Mr Allister’s criticisms.