Council ‘needs 60 new staff for NI Protocol harbour checks’ - concern over ‘£5m bill for ratepayers’

A Northern Ireland council has said it would need to provide 72 full-time staff at a cost of almost £5m to deliver on NI Protocol obligations at Larne harbour.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 1:15 pm

Concern has been expressed about the potential cost to ratepayers of such an expansion. Mid and East Antrim currently employs 12 staff at the port.

Checks on animal and food products currently take place at Larne and Belfast ports and it is anticipated these will increase following the end of grace periods.

Following a meeting on Friday morning, a council spokesperson said: “Mid and East Antrim Borough Council understands it could be required to provide 72 full-time staff at a cost of almost £5million to deliver on its obligations at Larne Port for 100% checks to be completed at the end of the grace period.

Larne Port

“Data has been provided to council by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), and assuming there are no changes, they have advised council that potentially each shift at Larne Port would require a total of 17 officers.

“Council is currently operating four shifts with three staff per shift, so the total staff complement could rise to 17 staff across four shifts - meaning 68 staff would be required.

“Given that 12 staff are already employed, this could equate to an additional 56 members of staff being required to deliver the required functions.”

The spokesperson continued: “This does not take into consideration the additional supervisors/managers that would be required and council would assume that a minimum of four supervisors/managers would be needed.

“This would result in a total of 72 staff to deliver the Port Services required from council. It is expected that the additional staff would need to be qualified Environmental Health Officers, however, this requires further clarification.

“Based on the information provided by the FSA on the expected increased number of staffing, Council have written to the FSA requesting 100% funding, totalling £4.8million, to include the complement of officers and associated costs.

“In relation to the current 12 EHOs employed at Larne Port, no written confirmation has been received for their continued funding beyond 31 March 2021. Verbal confirmation has been given that the 12 EHOs will be funded for the next 12 months.”

TUV Ballymena councillor Matthew Armstrong said: “Of great concern to the ordinary ratepayers of Mid and East Antrim is the fact that the funding from the Food Standards Agency is only there until the end of March and we know from other information which emerged that the cost of Sea Border staff will be £4.8 million. The people of Mid and East Antrim face being left with a £5m bill for a border they do not want.

“It is absolutely clear to me that the council needs to stop playing along with implementing the Sea Border. It is damaging our economy and as I said in the chamber last week it is cyanide to the Union. Gradually, the massive scale of the barriers portioning our nation are becoming clear. The massive financial threat to the ratepayers of my area is eye-wateringly obvious.