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Northern Ireland assembly member defends £92,000 expenses

I’m using it to provide a service for my constituents, insists SDLP man

By John Mulgrew

The Northern Ireland assembly member who claimed at least £8,000 more than any other MLA last year has defended his Stormont expenses claim.

The SDLP’s Pat Ramsey topped the list with £92,718, according to the latest publication of expenses claims, covering the period from April 2011 to March 2012.

The Foyle MLA said that any claims his office made had been approved by Stormont’s finance department.

“I’m utilising it to provide a service and that’s the bottom line,” he added.

Assembly Members from the west of the province often have higher travel expenses due to rising fuel prices.

The total figure claimed across the Assembly came to £8,119,348.

Ten MLAs claimed more than £80,000 in the last financial year.

Mr Ramsey’s expenses were almost £8,000 more than the DUP’s Ian McCrea who claimed the second highest expenses, £85,044.

Fellow DUP MLA Paul Givan came third on the list, claiming almost £84,000.

The figures cover office costs, travel and other expenses.

Also in the top 10 claimers were the SDLP’s Dominic Bradley, the DUP’s Thomas Buchanan, Jonathan Craig, Mervyn Storey and Jim Wells, and Ulster Unionists Danny Kinahan and John McCallister.

Forty members had total expenses of more than £70,000, including 21 from the DUP, eight from the UUP, seven from the SDLP, three Sinn Fein MLAs and the Alliance Party’s Kieran McCarthy, claiming £77,653.

Caral Ni Chuilin was one of three Sinn Fein MLAs to claim more than £70,000, along with Francie Molloy and Alex Maskey.

The maximum ‘office cost expenditure’ (OCE) allowance available for 2011-2012 was £75,857 for Assembly Members.

Other allowances include childcare, temporary secretarial allowance, support staff mileage and disability allowance — the most prevalent of which is a temporary secretarial allowance, according to the Assembly.

Members also have motor mileage allowance for business travel by car which as of July 2011 was increased to 45p per mile for the first 10,000 and 25p thereafter.

But earlier this year an Independent Financial Review Panel decided on a cut in office allowances — bringing the figure down from £75,857 a year to £69,238 — with a potential saving of £1.8m.

Top 10 expenses claims

£92,718 - Pat Ramsey, SDLP

£85,044 - Ian McCrea, DUP

£83,942 - Paul Givan, DUP

£81,828 - Thomas Buchanan, DUP

£81,773 - Jim Wells, DUP

£81,014 - Jonathan Craig, DUP

£80,683 - Mervyn Storey, DUP

£80,374 - John McCallister, UUP

£80,340 - Danny Kinahan, UUP

£80,276 - Dominic Bradley, SDLP

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