Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Monday, 6 July 2009 17:46 UK

AMs' expenses face radical cuts

A review into AMs' expenses has called for second home allowances to be axed

Drastic reductions in the expenses Welsh Assembly Members can claim have been proposed by an independent panel.

The panel, chaired by Swansea University pro-chancellor Sir Roger Jones, recommends scrapping a number of payments related to second homes.

Under the plans, AMs could no longer claim mortgage interest on second homes but 25 of the 60 politicians could rent accommodation near Cardiff Bay instead.

AMs would also not be able to claim for furniture and fittings on second homes.

These changes would come into effect after the next assembly election in May 2011.

The panel's report, Getting it Right for Wales, follows a 10-month investigation of the pay and expenses of AMs.

At present 51 of the AMs are entitled to a second home allowance for attending the assembly in Cardiff.

KEY PROPOSALS

AMs to rent not buy second homes
Second homes for 25 instead of 51 out of the 60 AMs
Receipt for every claim
£30.65 overnight (food) allowance scrapped
No employment of AMs' family members in future
No more claims for furniture or fittings on second homes
Independent valuation of office rent payments by AMs to political parties
AMs' pay linked to average earnings not MPs' salaries
Source: Getting it Right for Wales
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That number would more than halve after 2011 if the proposals are accepted.

Assembly Members would no longer be able to employ family members in future but any existing arrangements would continue.

Key recommendations also include ensuring every expenses claim would require a receipt and "appropriate documentary evidence".

The current link between AMs' pay and MPs' salaries would be broken.

The report argues AMs' salaries should be increased in line with inflation next year and in future be fixed for each four-year assembly term.

AMs' earnings would, under the new system, be linked to changes in average earnings in Wales and set by an independent review body.

The current "daily allowance" of £30.65 for members on assembly business to spend on meals would be scrapped "as soon as possible".

After recent controversies over MPs' expenses, a tightening up of AMs' second home allowances was expected.

Sir Roger urged the Assembly Commission, the body responsible for running the institution, to accept the report in its entirety.

'Confidence and trust'

"I firmly believe that adopting the recommendations contained in the panel's report will allow the National Assembly for Wales and Assembly Members to re-establish the necessary confidence and trust of the people of Wales in the devolved democratic process," he said.

The Assembly Commission, with representatives from all four parties, will consider the proposals on Tuesday.

Last year, AMs claimed more than £230,000 for mortgages and rent, as the expenses' publication online showed.

They also claimed £4,500 for air travel and nearly £50,000 for meals and subsistence.

From October, monthly updates of AMs' expenses will be posted on the assembly's website.

The review panel was set up last August after AMs were awarded a controversial 8.3% pay rise to recognise their growing workload and law-making responsibilities following the 2006 Government of Wales Act.

The six Liberal Democrats AMs endorsed the report.

Leader Kirsty Williams said: "We as a group welcome the report and we will accept its recommendations.

"This is a fair and transparent system of financial support for Assembly Members."

Welsh Conservative assembly group chairman Paul Davies, AM, described the document as a making "an important contribution in bringing greater transparency to Assembly Members' allowances and expenses claims".

"We have always supported greater openness in how politicians spend public money in relation to their work and will study the report's findings closely," he said.

A Labour spokesperson said: "This review is an important contribution to the debate on pay and allowances and the Labour group will be giving it the full consideration it deserves."

Extra responsibilities

Plaid Cymru assembly group chair Dr Dai Lloyd said: "We look forward to having clear guidelines that will be set out by the Assembly Commission once it has come to its final decision following these recommendations.

"The Plaid Cymru group in the National Assembly is fully committed to abiding by that decision."

More than 20 meetings, two in public, have been held and comparisons have been made with other parliamentary bodies.

Currently, AMs receive an annual salary of £53,108, which is 82% of an MP's salary.

The additional costs allowance - for second home expenses - currently stands at up to £13,115 for payment of interest-only mortgages and furnishings.

AMs can also claim up to £15,135 to run their offices.

MPs expenses have also been published online, but Commons authorities were criticised because many of the details were blacked out.



SEE ALSO
AMs' expenses claims are online
29 Jun 09 |  Wales politics
Rule change call on AMs' expenses
13 Dec 08 |  Wales
AMs' expenses publication nerves
28 Jun 09 |  Wales
Third of Welsh MPs repay expenses
19 Jun 09 |  Wales politics

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