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Explained: Why are Northern Ireland MLAs getting a pay rise?

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Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

PA

Stormont

Stormont

Northern Ireland's 90 MLAs returned to work after a three-year break.

Ten days after the resumption of power sharing it was confirmed MLAs were to get a £1,000 pay rise, sparking a public outcry.

Some MLAs have expressed surprise at the pay rise, however, it was established as far back as March 2016.

The Independent Financial Review Panel was established in July 2011 by the Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act (Northern Ireland) 2011.

The panel makes determinations in relation to the salaries, allowances and pensions payable to members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It meets at the beginning of every Assembly term and sets pay and increases for the next five years.

The panel is fully independent and is not subject to the control of either the NI Assembly or the Assembly Commission.

MLAs' pay rose from £49,500 to £50,500 and they are set for another £500 rise in April.

The salary hike came into effect when power-sharing was restored. It had been put on hold when devolution was suspended in January 2017.

In March 2016 the panel announced salaries would increase from £48,000 to £49,000 and by £500 each April if inflation is greater than 1%.

MLAs were due to receive the extra money over the past three years, but the increase was blocked by the former NI Secretary Karen Bradley because the Assembly was not functioning.

Now that the Assembly has been restored, the decision made by the panel in March 2016 comes into effect.

There is currently no procedure for MLAs to refuse the increase, leading to many MLAs announcing their intention to donate the extra money to charity.

In March 2017, former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan, who sat on the review panel, said legislation was framed in such a way so MLAs did not have a choice in accepting pay increases.

"That was because of problems before when MLAs came out and said 'I'm not taking a pay rise' and then two months later quietly wrote to us and said 'actually I will take it now'.

"We had to set a structure that would last five years and there was a trigger mechanism built in that would increase pay if inflation went over 1%."

The panel has not met since 2016, leading to questions as to whether the panel will be renewed or if the Assembly Commission will look at an alternative system.

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