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‘Reduced PLP Cabinet costs taxpayers more’

False economy? David Burt, the Premier, and OBA senator Nick Kempe disagree over cost of new Cabinet (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A Cabinet of full-time ministers is needed to deliver promises made by the Progressive Labour Party, the Premier has said.

David Burt’s PLP team has 11 full-time ministers, compared to seven full-time and five part-time under the previous government — a change One Bermuda Alliance senator Nick Kempe said would cost taxpayers an extra $150,000 per year.

Mr Burt told The Royal Gazette: “The former government had 12 ministers, this government has reduced the size of Cabinet to 11.”

But Mr Burt avoided the question of costs for the reduced number of ministers.

He said: “The new government reduced the size of Cabinet, and our ministers are focused on delivering the election mandate of the Bermudian voters.

“The work to deliver on this mandate requires full-time attention and I am pleased that all of our ministers are working in a full-time capacity for Bermudians.”

Mr Burt claimed the new numbers were a reflection of his party’s commitment to fiscal responsibility when he announced his ministers in July.

Mr Burt said at the time: “We have reduced the size of Cabinet to 11. I recognise that fiscal responsibility must start at the top.”

But Mr Kempe said: “The inference in those comments is that a smaller Cabinet is less expensive and that a less expensive Cabinet proves fiscal responsibility starting at the top.

“I think it is important that the public record shows that this 11-person Cabinet, in fact, costs more than the 12-person Cabinet it replaced.”

Mr Kempe said his calculation was based on the number of full and part-time ministers in the current government compared with the last.

He said: “Basically, full-time ministers receive $100,000 and part-time receive $50,000 on top of MP or senator pay.”

He said the OBA’s 12-minister Cabinet, made up of seven full-time ministers and five part-time ministers, cost $950,000 a year.

Mr Kempe added that the wage bill for the PLP’s 11 full-time ministers would mean an annual total $1.1 million.

Mr Kempe said there might be a 5 to 10 per cent variance if the exact figure was to be calculated.

Attorney-General Kathy Simmons last week confirmed all current ministers were full-time employees.

Ms Simmons, in reply to questions from Mr Kempe, also revealed that Corey Butterfield was an adviser to Jamahl Simmons, the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

The OBA was criticised by Mr Burt when it hired Mr Butterfield just after its 2012 election victory.

Mr Burt said at the time the new government had made a “terrible start” to its commitment to cut government spending.

Asked why the PLP had hired Mr Butterfield, Mr Burt said: “Mr Butterfield has been retained to conduct work that is integral to executing the new government’s agenda of economic empowerment.

“I look forward to his work producing dividends for the people of Bermuda.”