Allowances for MLAs have been amended to bring the salaries of their staff into line with those who work in the Assembly.
The revised determination on MLA allowances also brings parity in the terms and conditions for their staff.
Grade one staff will see their starting annual salary rise from £18,000 to £23,490, grade two staff from £19,750 to £29,400 and grade three staff from £22,750 to £36,100.
MLA have staff whose work ranges from constituency duties to preparing members for committee meetings and plenary sessions, as well as assisting with private members bills.
An update to the 2016 Determination has been published today. The amended regulations detail allowances that MLAs have to employ staff, purchase equipment, rent premises & cover other operating costs when carrying out legislative and constituency duties. https://t.co/JLT6gHUS5M pic.twitter.com/NULCpljaLp— Northern Ireland Assembly (@niassembly) August 27, 2020
The overall staffing allowance per MLA has been increased from £50,000 per year to £80,000, to enable them to employ two-and-a-half full-time staff.
Amendments to the 2016 determination also make changes for constituency office costs and technical adjustments necessary due to the exit from the EU, and are designed to improve services MLAs can offer to their constituents.
It also allows MLA contact details to be displayed on office signage and for satellite surgeries to be conducted at other locations – which had been prevented under the 2016 determination.
There had been controversy over premises rented by MLAs in terms of them paying rent to relatives.
Constituency office operating expenses have also increased from £4,900 per year per member to £7,000, to allow for measures such as security, health and safety as well as and disability access requirements.
The total cost of all the changes is potentially up £4.2m a year if all MLAs draw down the maximum allowances.
Most of the changes are effective from April 1 2021.
MLAs must continue to demonstrate that monies spent are in accordance with the rules regarding such paymentsSpeaker Alex Maskey
The determination has been implemented by the Assembly’s finance office.
Assembly Speaker and chair of the Assembly Commission Alex Maskey said it was felt that MLA staff should not be treated less favourably than Assembly staff.
“This amended 2016 determination will enable MLAs to carry out their legislative and constituency responsibilities in an appropriate, efficient and flexible way,” he said.
“The most significant change is to how MLAs’ staff are treated. Both the Assembly Commission and MLAs strongly believe that the staff MLAs employ should not be treated less favourably than Assembly staff, especially in light of the important role they play in providing services to constituents.
“I want also to make it very clear that the changes to the 2016 determination in no way diminish the scrutiny and oversight that the Assembly Commission applies to all allowances that are available to MLAs to pay their staff and run their constituency offices.
“MLAs must continue to demonstrate that monies spent are in accordance with the rules regarding such payments.
“The Assembly Commission is rigorous in ensuring that MLAs comply with the rules before it reimburses expenditure incurred by MLAs.
“Expenditure by MLAs will continue to be published quarterly.”