Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Few will feel sorry if MLAs suffer pay cut

Editor's Viewpoint

Few members of the public are likely to be sympathetic to Northern Ireland's MLAs following a recommendation that their salaries be severely pruned.

After all, it is almost a year since they were elected with the primary task of restoring devolution, a task they have singularly failed to achieve and, it would seem at times, to seriously contemplate.

Advice given to Secretary of State James Brokenshire recommends a two-stage cut to the basic salaries of MLAs with other recommendations affecting office bearers in the collapsed Assembly and adjustments to staffing allowances, an embargo on further employment of staff, and deferment of the annual increment due to MLAs each April.

This is waving a stick, since all attempts to cajole the politicians back onto the benches at Stormont have failed.

Given the attitude of parties here to threats or deadlines, it is unlikely that even a cut in wages will work the oracle in getting agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Both may be playing different agendas which do not necessarily put a return to devolution at the top of their priorities. After all, the DUP sees itself at the centre of national government - and therefore possibly more influential than ever - while Sinn Fein is looking increasingly over the border for the party's next political project.

There is no doubt that if the Secretary of State takes the advice given to him - and what would be the point of seeking it and then ignoring it? - MLAs would see a serious reduction in their income, down a total of £13,612 to £35,888 on the standard salary. Given that many people tend to live to the standard of the income they enjoy, that could mean a severe tightening of the belt for some of our politicians.

Mr Brokenshire has to bear in mind that any cut in salary he makes is proportionate to the job the MLAs do. While they may not be legislating, they still run constituency offices and handle the problems brought to them. They may be accused of doing nothing, but that is unfair - it is a case of not doing enough.

It should be noted that the average wage in Northern Ireland is £24,800, £11,000 below what the politicians would get if these recommendations are implemented. And we all face the threat of rates increases, prescription charges and other revenue-raising measures to bail out the economy. We have more reason to feel sorry for ourselves than our politicians.

Belfast Telegraph

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