Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“At the end of June I announced plans for a new Special Adviser Bill. The Bill is designed to address two issues of public concern. Firstly it deals with the excess which has characterised SpAds in Northern Ireland. The issue is starkly illustrated when one considers the number of Special Advisers employed at Stormont and contrasts it with the other devolved regions of the UK. Northern Ireland has 19 SpAds while Scotland has 14.
“Just two weeks ago the Welsh Government published details of the number and cost of Special Adviser employed in Cardiff. They get by with 9 – less than half the number employed by Stormont. The paybill was also revealed. For the period 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 the cost of Welsh Government SpAds totalled £626,995.
“Contrast that with the figures published by Stormont at the start of July in the terms of my last Special Adviser bill. We learned that the Northern Ireland bill for SpAds had, for the first time, topped two million at £2,016,362.31.
“Does Northern Ireland really need to be spending more than three times than Wales on Special Advisers?
“My Bill will address this issue by reducing the number of SpAds in OFMdFM from 8 to 4 and linking their salaries to the senior civil service pay band for Assistant Secretaries (Grade 5).
“Importantly, my Bill also sets out to make SpAds more accountable. This follows unease over the fact that the DSD minister was able to intervene to save Stephen Brimstone from disciplinary action over the Redsky affair and his treatment of Cllr Jenny Palmer.
“I have been encouraged by the response so far but would remind the public that they have until the end of August to make their voices heard on the issue. People can respond online here or can receive a hard copy of the consultation by contacting my office.”