Belfast Telegraph

Review recommends large pay cut for MLAs in Northern Ireland

Members of Northern Ireland's suspended powersharing Assembly should take a near-£14,000 pay cut, an independent review has said.

The 90 lawmakers have not been engaged in parliamentary work scrutinising government or passing laws because of a major fallout between former coalition partners the DUP and Sinn Fein over a botched green energy scheme early this year.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he would carefully consider the advice of former Assembly chief executive Trevor Reaney after he recommended pay be cut in two stages to around three quarters of the current £49,500.

Mr Reaney's report said: "It is inevitable that public frustration with a non-functioning Assembly will continue to increase.

"The impact of any salary reduction on MLAs' personal circumstances is also acknowledged.

"Therefore, it is judged that a 'stepped' approach to salary reduction is warranted."

He said pay should fall from £49,500 to £42,075 now and be followed by a decrease to £35,888 three months later.

It was recommended that future annual increases for Assembly members be deferred pending the restoration of powersharing.

Mr Reaney acknowledged the constituency work Assembly members were doing in the absence of a properly functioning legislature as well as advocacy with senior civil servants while no ministers are in place.

The salary of the DUP Speaker of the House, Robin Newton, would be reduced from £87,500 to £55,848.

Mr Newton has faced calls from political opponents to quit.

Mr Brokenshire said: "I would like to thank Trevor Reaney for his thoughtful advice on the approach to the salaries and allowances of MLAs in the continued absence of an Executive or sitting Assembly.

"This is a matter of significant public concern and it is right to take a considered approach.

"This is why I asked Mr Reaney to provide me with this advice, which I will consider carefully before responding."

The powersharing crisis triggered by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme appears as far from resolution as ever, with Northern Ireland having been without a properly functioning powersharing administration since January when DUP leader Arlene Foster was forced from her role as first minister by the late Martin McGuinness's decision to quit as deputy first minister.

Significant issues still stand in the way of a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein that would see them return as coalition partners in a devolved executive.

A return to Westminster direct rule looks a more likely prospect at present.

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