Belfast Telegraph

If MLAs can't seal the deal, cut their wages

Editor's Viewpoint

Ask the man, or woman, on the street what encouragement our politicians should be given to end the impasse at Stormont and the odds are that he or she will say that the MLAs should have their pay reduced at the very least.

In March this year that was the verdict of 93% of respondents to a poll conducted by this newspaper and opinion is likely to have hardened in the meantime.

The Assembly elections were held four months ago and it seems that it may be several more months, or perhaps even longer, before the power-sharing administration is restored.

A common complaint is that there is no incentive for the parties to reach agreement. Deadlines are broken with virtual contempt and even the acknowledged problems piling up right across society have not persuaded the politicians to get back into the Assembly and Executive.

There is precedent for reducing MLAs' pay. When direct rule was introduced from 2002 to 2007, politicians had their salaries cut by a third until devolution was restored.

Government agencies also use a stick on occasion to get their way. Witness the huge number of fines imposed on motorists who stray into the maze of bus lanes in Belfast. This is seen by drivers as a way of persuading more people to use public transport instead of their own cars.

But what most irks the public about the present impasse is that the economy is in a fragile condition and many people face uncertain futures because of reduced public spending.

The 50 members of staff who have been given protective redundancy notice at South Belfast Sure Start, a publicly funded organisation which provides a range of services to parents and young children in deprived areas, will feel they are being unfairly penalised for the politicians' inaction. They no doubt believe the politicians should face the loss of at least part of their salaries.

Of course politicians will argue, as Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill did yesterday, that they are working at resolving their differences. MLAs are also continuing with their constituency work.

That is true and there are many hard-working members among the 90 elected last March - many others of equal calibre lost their seats. But they were elected to legislate, devise policy and get the province working again, not merely deal with constituents' problems. If they don't, they should suffer a pay cut.

Belfast Telegraph

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