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Panel urged to put brakes on MLAs’ £13,000 a year ‘Rolls Royce’ pensions

By Noel McAdam

An independent panel reviewing Assembly members’ pay has been urged to focus on their “Rolls Royce” pension provision.



The three-strong panel held their latest session yesterday — and is to meet again next week — but has not yet come to the stage of reaching final conclusions.

It was, however, made clear that their report — expected in February — will make no recommendations on reducing the current number of 108 MLAs.

“The panel has absolutely no power in relation to the number of the MLAs,” a spokeswoman said.

The remit of the panel, chaired by Pat McCartan, takes in Assembly salaries — currently £43,101 — office-holder allowances such as the chair of committees — an extra £11,117 — and office costs expenses as well as pensions.

Bumper Graham, assistant general secretary of the biggest civil service union, the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (Nipsa) said MLAs are enjoying a “Rolls Royce” pension while other public sector workers are being “hammered”.

An MLA with 12 years in office and a basic pay of around £43,000 could receive an annual pension of around £12,900. A public sector worker on the same pay would get just £8,600.

He urged the independent panel to review MLAs’ pension provision to bring it into line with public servants generally.

“At the end of the day MLAs are public servants and it would be hypocritical of them to force through draconian changes to other peoples’ pension schemes while they sit enjoying the rarefied atmosphere of their own,” he said.

“The fact is that the pension scheme for Assembly members is considerably better — actually about 50% better — than that available to people in the public service and the panel should take that into account.

“After all, to quote the Prime Minister David Cameron, we are supposed to be all in this together,” Mr Graham added.

His comments came after it emerged MLAs receive one 40th of their salary per year of service in their pensions, compared to a 60th for most other public sector workers.

Mr McCartan said pension provision is particularly important for MLAs who can find themselves elected for the four-year period of an Assembly — and then out of a job again.

It was also a “critical issue” due to the need to attract the highest quality of people to become MLAs. Mr McCartan has already given a hint that MLAs are likely to get a pay increase.

He said there was some “headroom” between the salaries of Stormont members and the £57,000 paid to Scottish MSPs, or the £54,000 received by Assembly members in Wales.

The difference, however, is that Northern Ireland has one MLA for every 16,565 of the population, compared to a ratio in Scotland of one to 50,107 and in Wales of one to 40,481 people.

What do politicians earn across the UK?

NORTHERN IRELAND

Currently MLAs are paid £43,101 a year as their basic salary.

First Minister: £114,535

Deputy First Minister: £114,535

Junior Minister: £62,710

Speaker: £80,902

Deputy Speaker: £51,600

Assembly members currently accrue their pension at a rate of 1/40th of their final salary for each year of service.

SCOTLAND

A member of the Scottish Parliament earns £57,521 a year.

First Minister: £140,847

Junior Minister: £84,598

Cabinet secretary: £100,748

Members of the Scottish Parliament members accrue their pension at a rate of 1/40th or 1/50th of their final salary for each year of service.

WALES

A member of the Welsh Assembly receives a salary of £53,852.

First Minister: £80,871

Members of the Welsh Assembly accrue their pension at a rate of 1/40th or 1/50th of their final salary for each year of service.

WESTMINSTER

MPs in London are paid £65,738 a year.

Prime Minister: £142,500

Deputy Prime Minister: £134,565

Cabinet ministers: £134,565

Speaker: £134,56

Members of Parliament accrue their pension at a rate of 1/40th, 1/50th or 1/60th of their final salary.

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