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We need value for money from our politicians

WITH the justifiable anger over MLAs' expenses and talk of police investigations, it would be all too easy to overlook another aspect of how our politicians are reimbursed, namely value for money.

In my constituency of Lagan Valley, the dominant party has one MP and four MLAs, with an office in Lisburn and a smaller office in Dromore. Doubtless they're proud of their facilities. But who picks up the bill? The taxpayer.

According to the Assembly website, in the period 2013-14, the four MLAs claimed in excess of £276,000 in office expenses. All perfectly within the rules, but note I have not included travel costs.

According to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, my MP during this period claimed in excess of £22,000 in office costs and £130,000 in staffing costs. With accommodation and miscellaneous costs included, the bill to us, the taxpayer, was just over £190,000. Again, all perfectly proper and within the rules.

No one said democracy was cheap, but one party, in one constituency, is costing the taxpayer more than £466,000 in expenses. With salaries included, the bill is well in excess of £700,000.

The present system at Stormont needs to be replaced. We could have a sliding scale. Here, parties with one MLA would get the full allowance. Parties with a second MLA would 100% plus an additional 75%, and 50% for a third.

And the taxpayer? Well, they might get something approaching value for money.

ALEX SWAN

Drumbo, Co Down

Belfast Telegraph

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