Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland MLAs can't give April Fools' pay rise back and parties to get £750,000 public cash, says man who set salary rules

MLAs have to take a pay rise and their parties are to split £750,000 in public funds for work, a former member of the body which sets representatives' pay has said.

Pay for the 90 MLAs will increase by £500 this Saturday -  April Fools' Day - to £49,500 despite the Assembly being mothballed because of the political crisis.

More: Northern Ireland MLAs to get pay rise despite no work and call to halt salaries

Former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan, who sat on the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP), told the BBC Stephen Nolan show there was no way for MLAs to refuse the increase.

"We framed the legislation in such a way they don't have a choice. 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%," Mr McQuillan added.

"At the time of the report inflation was at 0.6% and because of defects

Under the financial assistance rules for parties, they are to split £750,000 of public cash among them to assist them in their work. Mr McQuillan again repeated that within three months all pay for MLAs should be stopped.

"We can't have the situation that dragged on before that pay continued for five years and nothing was done. Salary should stop but notice should be given now so that the MLAs' staff know what is happening.

"Brokenshire doesn't want to say it because he wants to keep them talking and he is right to do it."

Asked for his opinion on if pay should continue for MLAs, the DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the Assembly should continue even under direct rule.

He said: "The Assembly should have a role even under direct rule because I think having that local voice when it comes to Brexit is vitally important."

The Government will consider stopping MLAs' pay to put pressure on the parties to reach a deal, the Secretary of State has warned.

Addressing the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Brokenshire said he would keep "all options under consideration" in his efforts to see a new Executive formed, and he agreed that withholding politicians' pay "might crystallise minds."

That view is overwhelmingly shared across Northern Ireland, with a Belfast Telegraph poll yesterday showing 93% public support for stopping MLAs' pay while Stormont is in deadlock.

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