As Liam Clarke rightly notes, the decision by the SDLP leader not to take the pay rise [ahem, you mean the one he originally called for – Ed] offered by the Assembly commission will ask some serious questions of other parties, not least Sinn Fein who have previously noted their disapproval of the proposed rise, but who’s considerable party infrastructure also depends to a large extent on ‘taxing’ the salaries of their own MLAs…
“Our MLAs have agreed to decline the pay rise. Some of them are suffering severely because the commission has in effect robbed Peter to pay Paul by moving the money out of office cost allowances.”
He added: “Our priority is to ensure that we deliver a service to our constituents and the difficulty is that the commission has reduced our ability to do so by trimming allowances.”
Allowances are used to pay rents for constituency offices and to employ staff to work in them.
They will fall from £75,857 a year to £69,238 per MLA.
Even if the pay is handed back the allowances will not be restored. Dr McDonnell stated: “It is tight out there and people are suffering, people are in pain.
“A number of our MLAs say they are going to have to make staff go part-time, despite welfare cuts. We will do our best to get round that.”
The party will look at options like using libraries and community premises to see if it is possible to make the savings on rent.
“If the libraries or anyone else offers us space I will be very happy to accept it, but, as things stand, I find it difficult to get accommodation,” he said.