Belfast Telegraph

MLAs criticised for claiming more than £280k in travel expenses

Sunday 13 October marks 1,000 days since devolution collapsed
Sunday 13 October marks 1,000 days since devolution collapsed

MLAs have been criticised for claiming more than £280,000 for travelling to Stormont and within their constituencies from April 2018 until March 2019.

The figures have prompted questions over whether the rules on how politicians at Stormont claim travel allowances are sufficient.

It comes as Sunday marks 1,000 days since devolution collapsed.

Assembly members have continued to use Parliament Buildings for a range of functions including meetings, talks aimed at restoring devolution and constituency business since its' collapse.

Assembly Members are entitled to an annual allowance for travel from their constituency to Stormont, which is determined by the constituency they represent. This ranges from £600 in Belfast to £6,200 in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

They are also entitled to an annual allowance for travel in their constituency, which varies from £250 to £1,250 depending on location.

Speaking to BBC News NI, Alan McQuillan said MLAs should consider whether the expenses system is rigorous enough.

Mr McQuillan, who sat on the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP), which used to set the rules on MLA pay and travel expenses, said: "I think this is now a disgrace, 1,000 days (without an assembly) and they're still claiming it."

"I have no doubt the members get a lot of facilities at Stormont, they have offices at Stormont and many of them are going up and down to use those facilities - but the public is paying for that.

"Is the public really getting the service they deserve?"

In a statement, the NIO said the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith would continue to keep the matter "under review" in the months ahead.

Mr McQuillan said there was not enough monitoring in place to scrutinise claims for travel made by MLAs.

He was referring to the signed form they submit in order to get their allowance.

"I don't believe in any expenses system it's wise to take things absolutely on trust," he added.

"Members themselves should be thinking about whether that's a sensible system to convince the public that they're getting value for money."

 

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