Page last updated at 06:31 GMT, Tuesday, 26 May 2009 07:31 UK

Review of MLAs' expenses system

Stormont
More details about MLAs' individual claims are to be published

The guidance given to MLAs on expenses and allowances is to be reviewed by the Assembly Commission.

It follows a report by the Senior Salaries Review Body (SSRB).

The commission, a cross party body, has also decided to publish more details about MLAs' individual claims, starting this financial year.

The Assembly speaker, William Hay, said it wanted to ensure that the Assembly is "open, transparent and demonstrates value for money".

The decision to publish more details of expenses claims will bring the assembly closer to the position of the Scottish Parliament where all claims, no matter how small, are made public on an internet database.

Westminster is also due to adopt a similar system.

The commission has been considering the SSRB report which was published in December.

It made a number of detailed recommendations including auditing MLAs expenses claims, cutting mileage rates and capping some expenses for MLAs who are also MPs.

As a result the commission's review will focus on the Members' Financial Services Handbook.

The handbook provides the rules for MLAs in respect of Office Cost Allowance, mileage and subsistence.

In the last financial year MLAs' expenses came to more than £7.5m. The majority of the money, £6.8m, was for Office Cost Allowances, which is used to pay staff and rent offices.

MLAs are allowed to rent offices from family members, a practice which is banned under Westminster's expenses rules.

MLAs are also allowed to rent offices without any independent assessment of rental charges, a practice the SSRB said should change.

The commission will also consider matters recently referred to it by Stormont's ethics watchdog, the Standards and Privileges Committee.

The political parties will be invited to submit their views to the commission by the end of June.



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