Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

£4m: taxpayers’ bill for Assembly’s lavish pensions

Almost £4m of taxpayers’ cash has been stashed away to fund generous pensions for politicians and civil servants at Stormont this year.

Some £1.2m of that will be spent on “gold-plated” retirement packages for the Assembly’s 108 elected Members — in addition to the £5.3m which their huge salaries already cost.

Details of the extravagant spending was released to TUV leader Jim Allister yesterday in response to an Assembly question.

It comes just days after it emerged the Executive would force teachers, hospital staff and other public sector workers to pay millions more into pension contributions because of budget cuts imposed by Westminster.

Speaking last night, Mr Allister expressed concern at the expenditure.

“The Assembly’s gold-plated pension scheme is all part of the political line peddled to get an agreement in place — and quite clearly a lot of people are being treated more generously than they ought to be,” he said.

Currently an MLA’s basic pay is around £43,000. They can also claim over £70,000 in expenses and allowances.

According to figures released by the Assembly Commission, the 108 MLAs will receive a total salary of £5,327,000 during the 2011/12 financial year.

A further £1,212,000 will be spent topping up their pensions.

Meanwhile £2,510,000 will go towards pensions for other Assembly staff, in addition to their £12,808,000 salary bill.

Mr Allister said it was unfair for MLAs to cash in on an Assembly which isn’t delivering. “This is a sizeable bill but I don’t think people will be surprised — it’s hard to shock people any more,” he added.

“The Assembly has been up and running six months, MLAs are getting a full salary, and yet the same Assembly is not delivering for people. It is meant to be a legislative Assembly but it is not legislating.”

Emma Boon, campaign director with the TaxPayers’ Alliance, also hit out at the spending.

“Many taxpayers are struggling to save for their own retirement, it’s shocking that they are footing the bill for expensive pensions that many in the private sector can only dream of,” she said.

According to the latest accounts published by the Assembly, MLAs had a £5.25m windfall during 2009/10 when their retirement fund reserves rocketed from £9.1m to nearly £14.5m.

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