| 9.6°C Belfast

Video: Public outrage over Northern Ireland MLAs £1,000 pay rise

Power sharing restored after three-year break

There was outrage on the streets of Belfast after it was confirmed Stormont MLAs are to get a £1,000 pay increase.

The New Decade, New Approach deal heralded the resumption of power sharing in Northern Ireland. MLAs' salaries which were reduced because of the three-year absence of devolved government were restored to their previous levels.

And it was confirmed Assembly members are to receive an extra £1,000 in their next pay packet, sparking anger among the public.

Belfast resident Jason Brownlee said: "My wife's a nurse and she's going through her own struggles at the moment with healthcare, having consistently to fight hard for fairer salaries.

"At the other end you have MLAs who have been producing nothing for the last couple of years and it does feel very unfair at times."

Ben Burnside described it as "outrageous".

"They haven't been sitting in an Executive for three years, they had the power to have the country up and running again and in that time the public has suffered," he said.

Rory Sutton added: "They've got to be right near the bottom in terms of the people who deserve a salary increase."

Salaries were set to increase over the past three years, however the change was blocked by the former Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

The increase will see MLAs' salaries rise from £49,500 to £50,500.

People before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll also criticised the move.

"The fact that MLAs are back in post just over a week and are having their wages topped up will no doubt come as a slap in the face to nurses who stood on freezing pickets for months for pay parity, and the civil service staff who are still taking industrial action to get what they deserve," he said.

"People Before Profit have always advocated for MLAs to be paid an average worker's wage - it's what I take home.

"How can MLAs receive a salary that is around double the average wage and claim to competently represent their constituents interests when their financial realities are so different?"

Since power sharing resumed almost two weeks ago, parties have been at loggerheads with the UK Government over funding commitments made to the region.

The Treasury has pledged £2billion for the Stormont Executive, which includes £1bn in "new money" and £1bn which was already committed under the Barnett formula, used to calculate spending in the devolved regions.

Parties have insisted this is far less than what was promised during negotiations, with the figure of around £5bn being mooted as what is required to get Northern Ireland up and running following three years without devolved government.

Now there has been talk of increasing rates, introducing water charges and even hiking university tuition fees in order to plug the massive funding gap.

An Assembly spokesperson said: "Following the formation of an Executive on January 11, the full provisions of the Assembly Members Salaries and Expenses Determination 2016 are in effect including the provisions for annual uprating."

Due to the political stalemate that ensued for three years following the resignation of Martin McGuinness in January 2017, MLAs had their pay reduced by 27.5%. That was to reflect the amount of work they carried out in their constituencies.

In November 1, 2018 salaries were reduced £7,425, followed by a further cut of £6,187 in January 2019 - resulting in a total annual wage of £38,888.

Following the restoration of the Executive, however, regular full salaries were reinstated.

Belfast Telegraph