Belfast Telegraph

No deal, no pay. It's time for Brokenshire to stop MLAs receiving £49,000 salaries...

... but don't hold your breath on spineless Tories doing right thing

By Suzanne Breen

The Tories are known for their ruthlessness when it comes to cutting public spending.

Single parents, the sick, disabled and the weakest in our society have all been victims of their slash and burn approach.

So if no deal is reached by tomorrow's talks deadline, it's obvious what Secretary of State James Brokenshire should do.

Stormont is the biggest white elephant around and it's time for the Tories to act. There should be no special status for our pampered political class.

The Assembly hasn't sat once since it was elected almost eight months ago, yet MLAs continue to enjoy £49,000 salaries plus expenses.

There aren't many jobs in Northern Ireland where you're paid as handsomely as that. And our politicians don't even have to turn up for work to be rewarded.

Just think of the effort you, your family, friends and neighbours put in to earn a crust.

I see women slaving away in call centres and fast food chain outlets on zero hours contracts.

Men breaking their backs on building sites in all weathers for a fraction of what they earned before the recession. Cleaners up at the crack of dawn to head across town to clear up other people's mess and sh*t.

People doing jobs they don't want to do, just to feed their kids and pay the bills. So tomorrow, if there's no deal, Brokenshire shouldn't duck or dive, but rather tackle the situation head on. He must tell them: "No work, no pay."

We are spending £1 million a month on their wages and expenses. When you add in the running costs of Stormont and other staff, the bill comes to £3.5m a month.

Just think what that money would do for hospitals and schools the length and breadth of Northern Ireland.

We may be divided over an Irish Language Act, legacy issues and equal marriage, but this matter unites us all. From hardline unionists to radical republicans, I haven't met anyone who says "keep on paying the MLAs".

When devolution was suspended in 2002 they continued to receive 70% of their salaries and expenses for the next five years. We mustn't do that again.

Reference is regularly made to the constituency work MLAs do, but we have enough elected representatives to fulfil that role already. Eighteen MPs, 462 councillors and three MEPs is ample for a place our size.

But Brokenshire won't take the decisive action the public are calling for because London has invested heavily in showcasing Stormont to the world regardless of its poor record.

Paying off the politicians would be an admission that little real change has been delivered here despite all the lofty promises.

That's not something Downing Street wants to own up to just six month away from the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

And so Government generosity will continue. Ordinary men, women and children across the country will keep bearing the brunt of austerity, while millions are literally thrown at our politicians.

Belfast Telegraph

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