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The high cost of living with Ulster's MLAs

Salaries higher per head at Stormont than in other UK parliaments

By Chris Thornton

Stormont's wages cost taxpayers almost twice as much as any other Assembly or parliament in the UK.

Paying Assembly members costs £2.59 for every person in Northern Ireland - nearly four times more than the 65p per UK resident for Westminster's basic salaries.

The devolved assemblies in Wales and Scotland also cost far less than Stormont's wages - with Cardiff's total salaries costing 94p a head and the Scottish Parliament £1.32 per person.

The gap exists in spite of Westminster, Welsh and Scottish salaries increasing over the past five years, while Stormont pay remains at the same level it was before suspension.

Assembly pay is currently up for review by the Senior Salaries Review Body, which recommends salary levels for all the UK parliaments.

MLAs rejected a pay rise in 2002 and there have been hints that they could turn down a recommended rise again. Sinn Fein has already come out against an increase for the basic wage of £41,321.

Individual Stormont Assembly members get paid less than members of the UK Parliament, Scottish Parliament or Welsh Assembly.

But they also represent far fewer people.

The Welsh Assembly represents 1.2 million more people for £1.7m less in total annual pay - largely because the Cardiff Assembly has far fewer members.

The relatively large number of Assembly members pushes up the total pay bill.

Blair Gibbs, Campaign Director of the pressure group TaxPayers' Alliance, linked the pay issue to the debate about being over-governed.

"If more spending and more politicians was the solution to life's problems, the Soviet Union would still be around," he said.

"It is depressing that throughout the UK - but especially in Northern Ireland - we haven't yet managed to trim government down to size.

"Taxpayers need better government from fewer and less-expensive politicians."

The basic wage bill for 108 Ulster MLAs is £4.4m a year, compared to £2.7m for 60 Assembly members in Wales.

But the actual outlay on pay is higher than the basic wage bill.

Eleven Assembly members get reduced pay because they are also MPs, but 40 MLAs get higher salaries because of ministerial or committee supplements.

Belfast Telegraph

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