The Northern Ireland Assembly Commission has published a new determination which amends the determination taken in 2016. This is what governs how the staff costs for MLAs and other associated costs with running an office.
The headline from the latest determination is that salaries of staff members working for MLAs are set to rise. This change brings staff employed by MLAs into line with other staff members in the Assembly. Grade one staff will see their starting salary rise from £18,000 to £23,490, Grade two staff from £19,750 to £29,400 and Grade three staff from £22,750 to £36,100.
For those not familiar with the work that MLA staff do, it can range from communications, constituency queries, managing diaries, writing questions and assisting with relevant policy work.
If the full entitlement is taken up by MLAs it would cost £4.2 million per year.
The Speaker of the Assembly, Alex Maskey said;
“This amended 2016 Determination will enable MLAs to carry out their legislative and constituency responsibilities in an appropriate, efficient and flexible way.
“The most significant change is to how MLAs’ staff are treated. Both the Assembly Commission and MLAs strongly believe that the staff MLAs employ should not be treated less favourably than Assembly staff, especially in light of the important role they play in providing services to constituents.
“I want also to make it very clear that the changes to the 2016 Determination in no way diminish the scrutiny and oversight that the Assembly Commission applies to all allowances that are available to MLAs to pay their staff and run their constituency offices. MLAs must continue to demonstrate that monies spent are in accordance with the rules regarding such payments. The Assembly Commission is rigorous in ensuring that MLAs comply with the rules before it reimburses expenditure incurred by MLAs. Expenditure by MLAs will continue to be published quarterly.”
In today’s Irish News, John Manley reports some criticism of the decision from Alan McQuillan.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs