NI Assembly Commission to discuss MLA pay rise

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By Q Radio News and David Young, PA

The Assembly Commission is expected to meet today to discuss the request to half a proposed £1,000 pay rise for MLAs.

The annual salary is due to increase to £50,000, however, the five main political parties here have jointly asked for the hike to be deferred.

It came as a surprise and a cause of dismay to all, they stated and they're considering how to stop the extra money.

Some MLAs have already announced they'll be donating the increase to charity. 

A joint statement by the parties said: "We share the broad public dismay at this development, only a matter of days after the Assembly and institutions have been fully restored.

"We have had a range of concerns over time around recommendations emerging from the Independent Financial Review Panel.

"We are jointly asking the Assembly Commission that any pay proposal is immediately deferred until the work of the Financial Review Panel has been comprehensively reviewed and a new panel has the opportunity to consider this matter again and produce a fresh determination.

"We recognise that a number of MLAs and parties have indicated if the proposed pay increase cannot be halted, they will donate any additional sum to local causes and charities."

The salary of an Assembly member rose from £49,500 to £50,500 when the Assembly resumed business earlier this month.

The increase should have been introduced in stages over the lifespan of the three-year political crisis, but the Government blocked those rises pending the return of devolution.

The salary is now due to rise by another £500 in April.

Sinn Fein and the DUP expressed opposition.

Nationalist SDLP and Ulster Unionist members vowed to give the money to local charities.

The cross-community Alliance Party voiced concern at a pay rise recommended by an independent body but angering some members of the public.

DUP MLA, Jonathan Buckley says the idea of any pay rise is ridiculous: 

Critics claimed it was inappropriate given that MLAs did not sit in the devolved legislature for three years; it comes as many public-sector workers engaged in industrial action over pay.

The framework for the annual increases was set by the Independent Financial Review Panel, with MLAs having no input.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said: "Given that the assembly has just been restored this is unjustifiable and should not be paid."

DUP economy minister Diane Dodds told BBC Radio Ulster: "Whoever thought that this was a good thing to do, at this particular juncture, was way off the mark.

"It is incredibly unfortunate that this has jarred with the start of what has been quite a positive opening to the Assembly."

Meanwhile, 

Meanwhile, an Assembly Spokesperson said: “The Speaker is mindful of the concerns expressed by the five main political parties in relation to the Independent Financial Review Panel’s inflationary increases to MLA salaries arising from its 2016 Determination.

“He has therefore invited Assembly Commission Members and those Members who are due to be appointed to the Commission, to attend a meeting tomorrow afternoon, to discuss how those concerns might be addressed.”  

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