Much like the UK Parliament where the Speaker of the House is provided with a grace-and-favour apartment in the Palace of Westminster as a perk of the job, so too does the Assembly provide accommodation for the Assembly Speaker.
William Hay of the DUP served as Speaker from May 2007 until October 20114 when he was replaced by Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin in January 2015 who is the current office holder.
Stormont House, this article’s cover picture was originally built to act as the Speaker’s residence, but present is used by the Northern Ireland Office as their local headquarters.
However, the Department of Finance and Personnel, who run the Stormont Estate, still provide accommodation for the Assembly Speaker – and you pay for it.
Whilst we do not know the location of the accommodation used specifically, we know it is within the grounds of the Estate, which for anyone who has ever visited, will know is far from being deprived.
So what have you been paying for?
BtP asked for all costs relating to the accommodation provided for the Speaker since the beginning of the current Assembly mandate, i.e. 2011. We also asked how many times the accommodation has been used.
Home heating oil
Yes, you are paying to heat the private accommodation of the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly. Since 2011, this cost was a whopping
You also pay for the electricity bills run up by the Speaker during his use of the property. Since 2011 this amounted to
You also pay the rates bills for the property – despite the property being paid for by the Department of Finance and Personnel, who bill you for your own home. Since 2011, the rates bill for the Speaker’s accommodation came to
The scandal here is that the rent is paid to the Department of Finance and Personnel – we pay rates to the Department and rent despite it owning the Stormont Estate. Oh yes – despite the Speaker having his own respective private accommodation in his constituency, you pay the full rent on his grace-and-favour property also. From 2011 this came to.
Remember the second question we asked – how many times the property was used? The Assembly couldn’t tell us. Which means in essence that you could have been been paying all of these costs for a property that went unused for months, even years at a time.
What’s worse – whilst we couldn’t pinpoint the location of the property, we can get an idea of what size it may be. The level of rates paid indicate the commercial value of the property used by the Speaker would be in the region of £300,000. BtP looked at a leading property website for properties for sale of that value – there were several detached 4 and 5 bedroom properties across NI. This may give you an idea of the size of the property used by the Speaker – and you pay for it.