Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

MLA pay increase 'on the cards'


Northern Ireland assembly members may be in line for a pay rise after the next assembly election.

A cross party report, disclosed by the Belfast Telegraph, is recommending MLAs' salaries rise to at least £48,000 after the 2011 assembly election.

The current base salary for an MLA is about £43,000, which is £10,000 less than members of the Welsh assembly are paid.

The assembly commission report was due to be released at a debate on Monday.

It recommends rises for MLAs as well as ministers and other office holders.

This is the commission's response to a recommendation by the Senior Salary Review body that MLAs' pay packets should be brought into line with their counterparts in Scotland and Wales.

It is understood the commission has deferred the rise until after the next election - and is also proposing that an independent body be set up to make these decisions in future.

It is believed the first and deputy first ministers would receive an extra £8,000 each with their salaries rising to £80,000 - on top of their basic assembly salary under the proposals.

Sinn Fein assembly member Caral Ni Chuilin said her party was unhappy with some aspects of the report and would oppose the rises.

"To support this report in its entirety would therefore force us to support the recommended wage increase," she said.

"There are many recommendations in this report which Sinn Fein has welcomed, not least increased transparency in financial matters.

"However, this entire report is being brought forward for consideration by the assembly with no opportunity to vote on each and every specific recommendation."

Following the newspaper report, an Ulster Unionist Party spokesperson said: "We do not believe that MLAs should be responsible for voting for, or setting, their own salaries.

"It is, and has consistently been, our position that an independent body must undertake this responsibility, as is the practice in Westminster, Wales and Scotland.

"Importantly, however, such an increase would not take effect until 2011 - if the electorate don't think their MLA is worth their existing salary, or indeed an extra £7,000, then they should absolutely vote for a different candidate in the next election."

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