30/11/2009

SF Stymies MLA Pay Boost

A bid to block a pay increase for local politicians has been successful.

Sinn Féin Chief Whip and North Belfast MLA Carál Ní Chuilín welcomed the removal of a motion on pay increases for MLAs from today's Order Paper at the Assembly.

"This is a welcome move and one which Sinn Féin fully endorses; our party was the only party who continually highlighted our objections to the proposed salary increase," she claimed.

"We submitted an amendment to the original motion calling for the removal of those recommendations contained in the report which proposed that increase.

"Any pay rise must be left to an independent body, MLAs should not be voting for their own pay-increase, this goes against the very fundamentals of accountability and transparency," she said, commenting that, in this time of economic hardship and in the run up to Christmas it is unacceptable that any pay increase for MLAs would be considered.

"I welcome the fact that the other parties seem to have bowed to public pressure on this issue, it is unfortunate however that it took that much to bring them to this position."

Sinn Féin's opposition to increasing the pay of local MLAs was even though this would only have brought the politician's salaries up to the same level as those in the rest of UK.
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The party opposed the increase to their salaries - proposed to come into effect after the next election in 2011 following a recommendation of the Senior Salary Review Board.

It recommend an increment to MLAs to so that they would be paid at least £48,000.

MLA's salary is currently about £43,000; it is less than the pay of MPs (£60k) as well as less than the pay of members of Scottish Parliament and of the Welsh Assembly, who receive £53,000 and £46,000 respectively.

The report also wanted the First and Deputy First Ministers to receive an extra £8,000 each so their salaries would rise to £80,000.

Last week, Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney said the party would not support any pay increase.

He said there were many recommendations in the report that his party welcomed, not least increased transparency in financial matters but they disagreed with not having an opportunity to vote on every specific recommendation.

An UUP spokesperson said they don't believe that MLAs should be responsible for voting for their own salaries either, but it should be done through an independent body that must undertake this responsibility, as is the practice in Westminster, Wales and Scotland.

Underlining that any increase would not take effect until 2011, he concluded: "If the electorate don't think their MLA is worth their existing salary, or indeed an extra £7,000, then they should absolutely vote for a different candidate in the next election."

See: Possible Salary Increase For MLAs

(CL/BMcc)

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