Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

MLAs' expenses to be cut by £1,000

Published 01/04/2015

The new move is aimed at helping the Stormont administration meet efficiency targets
The new move is aimed at helping the Stormont administration meet efficiency targets

Expense allowances for Northern Ireland Assembly members are to be reduced by £1,000.

The Independent Financial Review Panel has announced new rules aimed at improving transparency and helping the Stormont administration meet efficiency targets.

Pat McCartan, the chairperson for IFRP said: "The panel is aware of a number of matters recently raised in the media and of the continuing political debate in relation to members' expenses.

"We are currently working on a comprehensive review of all aspects of members' expenses for the next mandate but, given the ongoing debate, we felt it was now time to increase transparency on contractual arrangements and on where and how public money is being spent by MLAs."

The move comes after the police confirmed officers were examining allegations about the misuse of expense claims highlighted in two television documentaries.

The BBC Spotlight programmes shone particular focus on how representatives from the Assembly's two largest parties - the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein - claimed money over the last decade.

Both parties have defended their actions and criticised the BBC coverage while t he SDLP and Ulster Unionists have also rejected claims made against some of their representatives.

MLAs receive a basic salary of at least £48,000 but politicians with added responsibilities are paid higher sums such as £86,000 for ministers and £60,000 for those holding committee chairmanships.

They are also entitled to claim a maximum of £69,238 for office cost expenditure, provided they are not an MP.

Mr McCartan added: "In the interests of probity and in ensuring value for money, the panel has issued two new determinations which will require MLAs to make a series of prior disclosures when they claim expenses."

The panel said it had also considered the current financial difficulties being faced by the Assembly when amending the rules.

Mr McCartan said: "In correspondence received from the Assembly Commission, the Panel has also been made aware of the changing financial circumstances for government in general and significant reductions to the Assembly budget (5%) for 2015/16.

"In light of this, the panel believes that now is the time to reduce the overall costs of members' expenses.

"These changes will cut up to £1,000 from the expenses paid to each MLA, and we expect that this will contribute over £100,000 per annum to the Assembly's cost reduction targets for 2015/16 and beyond.

"This will amount to a 4.5% cut on 2014/15 levels."

The new arrangements will apply until the end of the current mandate in 2016.

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph