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Stormont Assembly ‘could suffer serious reputational damage’ over allowances

Legislators have voted to give the commission which runs Parliament Buildings the ability to set payments to cover assembly members’ staffing costs.

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Stormont’s Assembly could suffer serious damage to its reputation after taking back control over setting allowances, former senior financial investigator and auditor Alan McQuillan said (PA)

Stormont’s Assembly could suffer serious damage to its reputation after taking back control over setting allowances, former senior financial investigator and auditor Alan McQuillan said (PA)

Stormont’s Assembly could suffer serious damage to its reputation after taking back control over setting allowances, former senior financial investigator and auditor Alan McQuillan said (PA)

Stormont’s Assembly could suffer serious damage to its reputation after taking back control of the setting of allowances, a former senior financial investigator and auditor has said.

Legislators have voted to give the commission which runs Parliament Buildings the ability to set payments to cover office and staffing costs for assembly members.

Alan McQuillan was part of the panel for an independent financial review which determined the salaries, expenses and pensions that should be paid to all elected members of the Assembly.

He said: “This decision takes them back 10 years.

“They will be the only legislative body in the UK or Ireland doing this.”

My fear is that, give it two or three years and we will find ourselves in the original situation, causing serious damage to the reputation of the AssemblyAlan McQuillan

The proposal was backed by Sinn Fein, the DUP and the SDLP.

It was opposed by the UUP, Alliance and Greens, who wanted to give an independent body the role of setting future allowances, with commission guidance.

Mr McQuillan said: “When we took over the system in 2011 we found a large series of problems in the system and how it was administered.

“Over the last five to six years in which we were in existence we took steps to regularise all of that and to put things on a full, professional footing with very clear rules and systems.”

He said millions of pounds were saved by cutting waste and malpractice.

“They are now taking that back to the start.

“My fear is that, give it two or three years and we will find ourselves in the original situation, causing serious damage to the reputation of the Assembly.”

According to the DUP, one-sixth of Assembly members are having to pay for their offices rates partly from their own pockets because the rules have not been updated.

The decision means an independent body will continue to set politicians’ pay and pensions but the commission will take responsibility for allowances.

TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Those who tabled the motion must have short memories. I do not think that the public have.

“The public well remember that, when the system that is proposed in the motion was in operation, namely that MLAs controlled, through the commission, their own expenses, it was abused and the product was scandal.”

PA