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New education authority costs £7m

09-12-2009

BBC

The new NI Education and Skills Authority (ESA) has cost £7m of public money despite not officially existing.

The new body was supposed to replace the existing education and library boards on January 1 but a political row has prevented its creation.

In the absence of executive agreement, the education minister has put in place interim arrangements to provide cover.

The Department of Education said the money was spent on an "invest to save" basis and would help reduce costs.

The formation of ESA was part of the review of public administration and was supposed to take over from the education and library boards as the employer of teachers in schools.

It cannot be created on January 1 because the education minister Caitriona Ruane has been unable to get the necessary legislation approved by the Executive.

The DUP opposes ESA in its current form, claiming that it discriminates against controlled schools, mainly attended by Protestants, because Protestant clergy won't be properly represented on its board.

'Shocked'

The figures released by the Department of Education show that most of the money was spent on salaries, almost £5.5m.

£359,000 was spent on accommodation, £670,000 on "support services" and £727,000 on "other costs".

The costs were revealed following an Assembly question from UUP MLA Ken Robinson.

Mr Robinson said he was "shocked" by the amount of money spent.

"I had to look at these figures several times because I was so surprised. We need a detailed breakdown of how every penny of this money was spent," Mr Robinson said.

"Such major expenditure on a body that is not up and running needs to be scrutinised."

A spokesperson for the department said it was investing now to avoid having to make cuts to frontline services in the future.

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