Belfast Telegraph

MLAs should be paid for only three months to allow for talks, salary body ex-members recommends

By Jonny Bell

Former members of the body which sets MLAs pay and expenses have recommended newly elected representatives are only paid for three months to allow them to hammer out a deal.

Pat McCartan, the previous chair of the Independent Financial Review Panel has written to the Secretary of State to make the recommendations for after direct rule is in place, if it is required.

He said it was important an Assembly was up and running and that the people trusted it.

"Frankly we think three months is long enough in order to get people into the legislative Assembly for which they are paid," he told the BBC.

For the next three weeks the parties are meeting with the British and Irish governments to work to restore the devolved institutions. Should they fail, the law says another election will be called. However, it is widely expected Mr Brokenshire would instead move emergency legislation through Westminster to implement direct rule.

Previously during six years of the suspension of the devolved institutions at the turn of the century MLAs were fully paid. Mr McCartan said the public would not stand for that to happen again.

He said: "That will not fill us with esteem for the Assembly. The way to bring about trust is to ensure proper financial probity.

"We are saying that if direct rule comes in, then there is an order in counsel made that it should contain provision to issue protective notice for a three month period to facilitate the talks.

"Then beyond that it would be for the Secretary of State to exercise his discretion."

He added: "We are not short of public representation in terms of 462 councillors, 18 MPs and three MEPs. We are asking the Secretary of State exercise some power or leverage that would facilitate getting people back into the Assembly.

"This is about public money properly used to provide for the legislative assembly we badly need. We are committed to have an effective working Assembly that people can trust and build public esteem and we believe there are many MLAs that agree with that position.

"We want to see things expedited and are asking the Secretary of State to use his powers to deal with the matter and at least ensure proper financial probity."

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