Sinn Féin to reject MLA pay rise
Sinn Féin said tonight it will reject the proposed pay rise for Stormont Assembly members.
But the panel that drew-up the blueprint signalled that parties opposing the increase may still face the proposed cuts if the report is implemented as planned.
Alan McQuillan and Dr Henrietta Campbell, who worked alongside the panel chair Pat McCartan, said MLAs were entitled to a pay rise, but said the wider cuts ensured a net saving for the public purse.
Mr McQuillan said that reductions in allowances, together with cuts to the earnings of politicians holding multiple elected posts, meant representatives would ultimately lose more than they gained.
“So it would be wrong to say MLAs are getting more money,” he said, pointing again to the expected saving of £3.16 million.
Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff welcomed the report of the Independent Financial Review Panel, but said his party had a series of concerns.
“We believe it would be hypocritical for MLAs to be contemplating an increase in the current economic climate when everyone else is expected to cope with the effects of the recession,” he said.
“It is our view that the current remuneration is adequate.
“We have only had an opportunity for a quick study of the report. We welcome the indication of the report that the implementation of its recommendations will result in £3 million savings to the public purse between now and 2015.
“However we have misgivings about the proposed increase in MLA salaries set alongside a reduction in Office Cost Allowances. One reading of this suggests that constituency service monies will be used to finance an increase in MLA salaries. This would not be acceptable to Sinn Fein.
“This amounts to removing monies from front line constituency work and placing it in the pockets of MLAs.”
Panel chair Mr McCartan argued the spread of cuts should not affect the jobs of those employed in MLA advice centres.
“The offices will be reduced. It will not mean job losses. They will not be reduced to the same level of wage or salary in Scotland, for example, where they have £59,500 for staff salaries. Here it is ... £75,000, it is reduced to £69,000. That is to include rent as well as salaries. Quite affordable, phased over three years.”
Dr Campbell also defended the pay rise: “Every MLA that we spoke to works very long hours, is deeply committed to the work that they are doing. So it is about fairly reimbursing people for a job that they do.
“And more than that, it’s about looking to the future and deciding what kind of person do they want to attract into this role, and they are saying pay is a factor in people going forward for these roles.”