Belfast Telegraph

Rent MLAs pay for their offices 'should be audited'

By Lindsay Fergus

Rent paid by MLAs for their constituency offices should be audited, a member of the Assembly's Independent Financial Review Panel has said.

At present the Assembly is meant to scrutinise the rent MLAs pay for the use of office space but Alan McQuillan believes that needs to change.

He said that "we can write all the rules we like" but added that "unless those rules are generally adhered to and respected" they are pointless.

Mr McQuillan added: "There has to be a back-up of proper audit and enforcement. I think what Spotlight and other issues have highlighted is that the Assembly needs to step back now and take a look at this, increase the level of surveillance in the best interests of everyone."

Mr McQuillan also criticised the size of some MLAs' offices.

"Some MLAs get by with an office of 5/600 sq ft and a rent of maybe £4,000 a year, at the other end of the scale, some MLAs have offices of 2,500 sq ft, five or six times as big costing four or five times as much.

"The average seems to be a rent of about £8,000 and an office of about 800 sq ft. It seems to us at that this stage, pending the outcome of the consultation, a sensible average for an average MLA."

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