Belfast Telegraph

Millions in allowances claimed every year by Northern Ireland MLAs

By Adrian Rutherford

Assembly expenses have long been a controversial - and costly - element of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

In the 12 months to April 2015 the 108 MLAs claimed allowances totalling more than £8.2m.

Between April and September last year a further £4.2m was added to the bill.

Picking up the tab was you, the taxpayer.

Expenses are not paid to MLAs. Instead, they are used by MLAs in connection with their Assembly duties and constituency service.

The maximum office cost expenditure (OCE) available for 2015/16 is £67,161.

The annual allowance is set by the Independent Financial Review Panel.

As its name suggests, OCE is generally used to allow an MLA to provide a service to constituents through a constituency office.

Items that can be claimed from OCE include office rent and rates, utilities, including heating and lighting and telephones, equipment and furniture.

It can also be used to pay for administrative support staff.

A second category, called "other allowances", is payable to assist with specific support staff costs.

This can include temporary secretarial expenditure, support staff mileage and the cost of employer pension contributions paid for support staff.

MLAs also receive a standard rate of motor mileage allowance for business travel by car.

The rates are 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter.

There is also a maximum £1,000 stationery allowance.

In 2014/15, Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA Phil Flanagan had the largest expenses bill, claiming a total of £97,264.

Controversy over MLAs' expenses erupted in 2014 after a BBC Spotlight investigation.

Belfast Telegraph


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