Editor's Viewpoint: Pay rise for MLAs wrong on all counts
The independent review body which has recommended a 11% pay rise for MLAs says the deal is good for politics and good for Northern Ireland. It could not be more wrong on both counts. As far as politics goes, if MLAs accepted the inflation-busting salary increase it would cause a public outcry.
The Assembly has implemented a public sector pay freeze to combat the reduction in public funding. Do the politicians really think the public sector workers - all of them voters - will meekly accept them getting a large pay rise when they already earn more than twice the Northern Ireland median wage?
The pay deal for MLAs is funded in large part by a reduction in their office expenses. So what is the likely outcome of that? MLAs may well decide to trim their office staff, cut back on the hours they are open or reduce the number of meetings with constituents.
That would be the natural reaction of anyone faced with decisions on how to save money. Surely the independent review body does not think that such a scenario is good for Northern Ireland?
Quite simply the idea of giving MLAs an 11% pay rise is fundamentally wrong. It sends out the wrong signal at the wrong time and will only lower the standing of politicians in the public eye.
The review body says it needs to pay good salaries in order to attract the right calibre of people into politics here. That is a bit like the argument the banks use for giving executives huge bonuses and is regarded with the same disdain by the public.
If politicians here really want to get better salaries then the practical solution is to vote some of themselves out of office. Northern Ireland is grossly over-represented at Stormont - we have one MLA for every 16,000 constituents, compared to one to 50,000 in Scotland and one to 40,000 in Wales. Cut the number of MLAs from 108 to 80 and the economics of increased salaries begins to make sense. Just don't expect that to happen anytime soon.