MLA's oppose pay rise

What now for Stormont?

The assembly sat for the first time in three years on 11 January

Jonathan McNabb

Reporter:

Jonathan McNabb

Email:

jonathan.mcnabb@thechronicle.uk.com

THREE local MLA's have told The Chronicle that they oppose the £1,000 pay increase for assembly members.

DUP's Mervyn Storey, TUV's Jim Allister and Sinn Fein's Philip McGuigan are all against the yearly wage hike.

It was revealed yesterday (January 21) that MLA's would get the rise, just less than two weeks after power sharing returned to Stormont.

The increase – which had been put on hold with the suspension of devolution - will see MLA's annual pay go up from £49,500 to £50,500.

The current rules on salaries and expenses were set by the Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) following a report it produced in March 2016.

DUP and Sinn Fein said they were exploring options to see if pay rise can be returned. The SDLP said all its MLAs would donate the money to charity while the UUP and Alliance said it was a matter for individual MLAs.

Commenting DUP MLA Mervyn Storey said: “The DUP has made it clear that they are totally opposed to this pay rise in light of the very recent restoration of the Assembly.

“The DUP supports the concept that pay levels should be entirely independent of any MLA input.

“It is a contradiction for us to be calling for greater control of public finance and at the same time receiving a pay increase.

“Currently I understand that the Party is examining options to see whether this rise can be returned and if not then it is the view of our members that they will not keep any additional salary but instead support local causes.

Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan has said: "Sinn Féin oppose the MLA pay increase. Given that the assembly has just been restored, it's unjustifiable and we wont accept it.

"We are actively exploring options to stop it.

"If that's not possible then we'll see if the money can be returned to public funds or donated to charity."

TUV MLA Mr Allister said: “I completely understand the public anger. The timing is inappropriate. MLAs have only been performing their full role a matter of days after three years when Stormont was down.

"The public standing of MLAs is very low and looking at the quality of some people may wonder who in their right mind would pay them a salary of £50,000 a year?

“It is my understanding that you cannot refuse your salary or say only pay me so much and that the matter is decided by an independent panel.

“I see some virtue signalling on the issue from Michelle O’Neill but she made no mention of the fact that the salary of both First Ministers is going up to £123,000”.

The Chronicle have asked Ulster Unionist MLA Robin Swann to make a statement.

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