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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 17:15 GMT
Pay rise for AMs is a 'one off'
AMs have a higher workload and more responsibilities
Assembly Commissioner for Resources William Graham AM explains the background to the commission's decisions about salaries and resources and how the assembly member's job is changing:

The Assembly Commission is the corporate body set up by the Government of Wales Act with responsibility for ensuring that property, staff and services are provided for the assembly.

Part of our responsibility is agreeing the level of salary and allowances paid to AMs.

William Graham AM
South East Wales, Conservative
Born: 1949
Occupation: Family firm of surveyors
Family: Married with three children
First elected: 1999
Assembly posts: Assembly commissioner, Shadow leader of the house, serves on business committee and European and external affairs committee
Current AM salary: 47,292
Allowances: 3,369.60 (mileage), 881.20 (other travel)
Costs: 14,671.60 (office), 1,439.99 (additional)
Staff salaries: 56,292.28
Source: Allowances figures from Welsh Assembly Government, 2006-2007

We asked an independent panel, chaired by the eminent Sir Michael Wheeler-Booth, to look at salaries and allowances and present us with their recommendations.

Assembly members have in the past been paid at 76.5% of the salary of MPs.

However, the independent panel looked at the increased workload and responsibilities of AMs as a result of the 2006 Government of Wales Act, and recommended that this level should be increased to 82%.

The commission decided to accept this recommendation. The new figure is a one-off increase and reflects the increased scrutiny work which has to be carried out by AMs to hold the government to account, and also the new legislative powers of the Assembly.

Under the Government of Wales Act, we now have the power for the first time to pass laws in Wales.

This means that not only can AMs propose their own legislation, they also have an important job scrutinising the government's legislative proposals in the same way that new laws are scrutinised in Westminster.

The assembly is already much more transparent than Westminster in the way allowances are claimed, but I think there are many improvements we could make
William Graham AM

As members we have all seen an increase in our workload since the last election.

For example, in September and October last year there were 60 formal committee meetings, compared with 38 for the same period in the previous year - an increase of 58%.

An equally important recommendation from the independent panel is that there should be a root and branch reform of the allowances paid to AMs - for example, the amount of money we can claim for running our offices, employing staff and working away from home.

This will be a fully independent review looking at all aspects of the allowance system.

The assembly is already much more transparent than Westminster in the way allowances are claimed, but I think there are many improvements we could make.

I want to ensure that we have the best and most accountable system possible.

These ongoing independent reviews are part of the commission's commitment to being open and accountable and safeguarding public money.

We are committed to bringing in expert help from the private sector to do this.

We have already appointed independent advisers to advise on the efficient and effective running of the assembly's business, innovative use of information technology and other resources, corporate governance and risk management.

One of the advisers, Mair Barnes, sat on the independent panel looking at salaries and others are members of our corporate governance committee, which advises the commission on matters relating to risk, audit, good governance and financial practices.

We will continue to seek the best independent advice we can in ensuring value of money for the people of Wales.

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