Northern Ireland

Chauffeur-driven cars for Stormont ministers reviewed

Chauffeur-driven cars for Stormont ministers are being reviewed by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson.

The three-year lease on the 15 cars expires in October, and Mr Wilson said ministers had a decision to make.

He said they could not "be seen to be ducking away from the consequences" of public sector cutbacks.

"We've agreed that nothing would be sacred, we would look at all kinds of spending; to me that includes ministerial cars," he said.

Former Labour junior minister Chris Mullin, who faced difficulties when he turned down a ministerial car, said the situation in London and Belfast was different.

'Security reasons'

"If you worked in the Foreign Office as I did for two years, it's just over the road from parliament and if you needed a car you would just hire a taxi," he said.

"There are security considerations in Stormont which need to be taken into account; one or two of the ministers will need to have cars for very good security reasons.

"The solution is probably a pool of vehicles or maybe an account with a taxi firm."

Steven Agnew of the Green Party said it was important to "get away from the idea that ministers have to be driven around in a flashy car".

Mr Wilson said he preferred to travel to work on his motorbike but ministerial cars were useful on days when he had a number of engagements.

"I'm interested in the upfront cost of the cars, what are the running costs and how many cars we need," he said.

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