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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Assembly members' pay set to rise
Martina Purdy
By Martina Purdy
BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent

Stormont
Assembly members' pay is going up
Next month, Northern Ireland's assembly members will be working on full powers. And full pay.

All 108 are in line for at least another 10,000 per year. The basic pay on 8 May will rise from about 32,000 to just over 41,000.

Sinn Fein policy, however, is that its members receive no more than the average industrial wage and that apparently means everyone from assembly member to minister gets the same - about 15,000. The rest goes to the party.

But many assembly members will be earning much more than the basic rate. The dozen or so who chair committees will get an extra 10,000 for this, with the deputies earning an extra 5,000.

And there are some who also receive MP's salaries of about 60,000. When this is added to their assembly pay, there is a two thirds reduction in the Stormont pay.

That leaves about 73,000 mininum. A number of MPs, however, are also earning extra as committee chairman and deputy chairman.

The 10 ministers and the speaker will earn about 77,000 - except for MPs Peter Robinson and Nigel Dodds who are entitled to about 110,000.

Of course that puts their salaries within a whisker of the official salary of the First and Deputy First Ministers.

First and deputy first ministers Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness are entitled to about 111,000 a year, when you add their basic pay to their ministerial pay of about 70,000.

Ian Paisley arriving earlier at Stormont
Ian Paisley will be the top earner

But as Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness gives most of his to the party, it's the DUP leader who's the biggest earner.

Mr Paisley also gets his Westminster pay, and once adjustments are made, will be paid about 144,000 per annum.

The speaker will earn about 77,000, and the post also comes with a car and driver, just like a minister.

Of course, there is already speculation that pay will be reviewed at Stormont - and that means pay hikes.

But Sinn Fein and the DUP have both moved to dampen the speculation. Sinn Fein says this is premature, while the DUP says there are no plans for a pay review.

But the Senior Salaries Review Board might look into the matter nonetheless.

This independent body would likely recommend a pay rise, based on the fact that its recommended pay rise in 2002 was turned down by the assembly members.

The parties did not believe they could justify a pay rise after the suspensions. Since the suspension of 2002, Stormont pay has fallen behind the regional administrations in Scotland and Wales.

For example, a member of the Scottish Parliament gets a basic salary of 53,000. In Wales, the basic pay is about 46,000.

If it does happen the parties will want to get it out of the way well ahead of the next election.

On the other hand, it will be a matter of judging the public mood - and whether the voters will stomach pay rises just yet.



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