Allister slams Stormont hospitality bill

Jim Allister

Jim Allister

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Stormont departments have been criticised by North Antrim MLA Jim Allister for running up a hospitality bill of £50,000 per week.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was “amazed” by the information he obtained through assembly questions.

Mr Allister said he thought there was “something seriously askew in government approach to public expenditure”.

The figures include the departments and their “arms length bodies”, such as the education boards and Invest NI.

The TUV leader said that in the past two years the government spend on hospitality had increased by 22%.

The hospitality spend for the Education Department and its associated bodies was £742,000 in 2013/14.

Patsy McGlone of the SDLP, who chairs the assembly’s Enterprise Committee, said Mr Allister was quite right to ask the questions.

“A lavish lifestyle is clearly being led in some departments and we cannot have that,” he said.

However, Mr McGlone defended the position of some government bodies, such as Invest NI.

“Clearly, a body which is encouraging investors into the country needs some sort of a hospitality budget,” he said.

The DUP’s Peter Weir said it was “unrealistic to expect there isn’t going to be some degree of expenditure”.

He said the “big ticket item” was welfare reform which was costing Stormont £7.25m per month in fines.