MLA expenses review announced

As David Gordon reports in the Belfast Telegraph, the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission is to review the MLA expenses system. NI Assembly clerk Trevor Reaney was on Stormont Live today, and it sounded like he was playing down any expectations of radical reform – see below the fold. The review follows on from the recommendations of the Senior Salaries Review Body, and the recommendations of the NI Assembly Committee on Standards and Privileges after looking at the use of the Office Costs Allowance to create a property asset for a political party. As Mark Devenport notes in this video the expectation is for something resembling the much more transparent Scottish system. But transparency, by itself, is unlikely to be sufficient here..

NI Assembly clerk Trevor Reaney on Stormont Live.

As David Gordon notes in a separate report.

The Paisleys’ Ballymena office has attracted particular attention due to its size and cost — the combined annual total of £57,200 is three times higher than the next highest MLA rental.

Some other MLAs last year confirmed that they had claimed rental expenses for premises owned by relatives, including Michael McGimpsey (UUP), Kieran McCarthy (Alliance) and Gregory Campbell (DUP). The UUP’s Billy Armstrong received payments up to the end of 2007 for a prefab office owned by his wife and located on the family farm.

Figures obtained by this newspaper last year showed that of 18 MLAs paying office rental expenses to their parties, 10 were from Sinn Fein.

The rules need to be stricter and, unlike the Fees Office in Parliament, to be enforced.