£58k a year for fax and phones

THE people of Northern Ireland pays £58k a year for phone and fax lines for MLAs despite the reduction in the number of fax machines - a technology older than Northern Ireland itself - being reduced at Stormont after the last election.

Local MLA Pat Ramsey - speaking as a representative of the Assembly Commission - said: “The total annual cost for line rental (for telephones and fax machines) in Parliament Buildings is in the region of £58k. We do not have a separate cost for line rental for fax machines.” He said an audit of fax machines at the Assembly will shortly be carried out.

Mr Ramsey also revealed that the Assembly Commission has not carried out a cost benefit analysis on the use of fax machines in Parliament Buildings.

“However, following the last election, the number of fax machines in Parliament Buildings was reduced with a number of MLA’s and staff no longer requiring one,” he stated.

“Building Services Branch will continue to monitor the need for the provision of fax machines and look for opportunities to further reduce the numbers.

“This will include an audit of fax machines being used in the building and I will provide you with an update when I have the result from that review.”

Meanwhile, Mr Ramsey also pledged that the Commission would try to ensure that a big electronic message board at Stormont was always turned off at weekends and at night.

DUP MLA Jim Wells asked him why the large electronic message board in the Great Hall remains switched on at night, weekends and public holidays.

Mr Ramsey explained that while the board located is managed by the Information Systems Office (ISO) it is normally turend off by the Stormont doorkeepers and ushers.

He said these staff have been “requested to switch off the screen last thing at night and turn it on first thing in the morning.”

“As well as being used to display information about Assembly business, the information screen is also used to provide emergency evacuation details and directions for ‘out of hours’ functions.

“I can assure you that the Office of the Keeper, in conjunction with the IS Office, will endeavour to ensure that the screen is not left on for any longer than necessary to facilitate tours and events,” he stated.