Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Time our politicians earned their salaries

Editor's Viewpoint

It is 18 months since the devolved administration at Stormont ceased to function. In that period the 90 MLAs have cost the public purse £9m in pay and an untold amount in pensions and expenses. That is despite an independent report commissioned by the previous Secretary of State recommending that the politicians' pay should be cut by at least £13,612 in the absence of devolved government.

That is advice that the current Secretary of State is very reluctant to take. While saying in March that she was minded to cut the MLAs' salaries, yesterday she tried to mount a defence for not doing so.

Her paper-thin argument was along the lines that the MLAs are still dealing with constituency work. That really was dredging the barrel.

If the MLAs are taking on board the concerns of constituents, who do they pass those concerns onto? It is no good asking civil servants in the ministerless departments to sort out the problems, because a court has already ruled they don't have that authority.

The MLAs should be passing constituents' problems onto ministers, except there aren't any. Can anyone see the point of MLAs working? They are simply glorified and much better paid councillors, except that councillors are still working and still taking decisions.

Meanwhile the two main antagonists, the DUP and Sinn Fein, show no sign of real engagement to find a way to restore devolution. There are faint mutterings which suggest fresh talks are possible, but little sign of impetus and none of embarrassment.

On a Thursday in sunny July we may seem a long way away from the chaos in hospitals brought on by winter pressures, but time has a habit of slipping past swiftly. Reform of the health service, Brexit, infrastructure projects, education pressures, are problems increasing in severity every day and require ministerial direction within a fully functioning, devolved administration.

The politicians may sniff the political atmosphere and believe that voter apathy outweighs public anger by a long way at present. It is true that the 18 month hiatus at Stormont has been met with resignation, but the sight of politicians continuing to be paid handsome salaries - and, as our story today details, some taking nice holidays - will cause anger among those families uncertain of future job security or without sufficient money to make ends meet. The demand for politicians to earn their money will inevitably grow.

Belfast Telegraph

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