SDLP is the only Assembly party to refuse the latest £5,000 pay rise

Interesting use of an FOI by a political party (never wrong for long, I’m told it was the Nolan Show wot found it out), ie to find out whether any of the other political parties at Stormont refused their 11% pay rise. Mark H Durkan:

“The independent panel which recommended the payrise are completely out of touch not only with the public mood but also with public need. This was evidenced by their decision to cut MLA office costs at a time when demand for assistance and services continues to grow with Welfare Reform imminent”.

That’s a fair old change of tune from January last year, when the party leader used his first major op ed to call for increased pay and pensions for MLAs.

The MLA’s 11% pay rise, posited last year and implemented in April came with a 3% reduction in expenses by next year. At the time Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff protested the rise

“We believe it would be hypocritical for MLAs to be contemplating an increase in the current economic climate when everyone else is expected to cope with the effects of the recession. It is our view that the current remuneration is adequate.”

However, both Sinn Fein and the DUP questioned the reduction in the office costs allowances and the knock-on effect that would have on constituency services. Mr McElduff said Sinn Fein would look at how they could “ensure that constituency services are maintained at the current level”.

But at the heel of the hunt, he and his party took the pay rise anyway…

For perspective (via Jamie Smyth of the FT):

  • Indicative figures suggest the average wage is falling across the UK.
  • Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not expected to see rises in house prices in the next year.
  • It is also the only place where the retail trade failed to pick up in May.
  • Bank lending to Northern Irish business continues to strangulate, with only the Ulster Bank yet having access to the Bank of England’s Funding for Lending scheme through its parent the RBS.
  • And in other news, unemployment is at its highest in 15 years at 8.5%.

Expect some sticking plasters tomorrow (but no extra money, and no deal on Corporation Tax), as the Secretary of State hands over her end of the Quid Pro Quo for OFMdFM’s hastily cobbled together Towards a United Community document

Adds: Nolan with Gregory Campbell…

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  • Morpheus

    “Interesting use of an FOI by a political party, ie to find out whether any of the other political parties at Stormont refused their 11% pay rise.”

    The FOI was from the Nolan Show:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-22871037

    Interesting take on it though. Not ‘fair play to the SDLP for not taking it’ but instead we have SF took it and the SDLP used a FOI to find out about the other parties. 94 MLAs took it. What about the 38 DUP MLAs who took it? What about the 16 UUP? Are there no attempts to bring balance to Slugger anymore?

  • Mick Fealty

    There’s two angles (apart from my mistaken one). One, party claims it doesn’t want the rise, party takes it quietly when it is offered. Now, did the DUP or UUP protest it?

    The other thing is Big Al’s turn on a sixpence (which you don’t mention) over pay rises. Now, it was pretty stupid to run into a brick wall like that. But I would call this a decent recovery.

    But given the figures above, we ought to be measuring the broad performance of OFMdFM (DUP included) against the economic downturn.

    BTW, if you see an angle (other than false balance), I’m very interested to hear it…

  • Mick Fealty

    Have added Gregory Campbell’s line from Nolan:

  • Morpheus

    False balance? 94 MLAs took a £5000 payrise when:
    355,000 people in relative poverty and 232 thousand people in absolute poverty in Northern Ireland,
    21% of children were in relative poverty and 13% of children were in absolute poverty
    63,000 thousand pensioners in relative poverty, 37,000 in absolute poverty
    unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds is at 23.8%
    Housing Rights Service has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of families seeking help and advice on the issue in the past year
    the number of bankruptcies has nearly tripled since 2003 and the number of IVAs has nearly quadrupled.

    All this on the watch of these MLAs. There’s your story, not bad SDLP for for saying they would but then didn’t and bad SF for taking it.

  • Morpheus

    That should read

    “Housing Rights Service has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of families seeking help and advice on home repossessions in the past year”

  • Mick Fealty

    Thanks for those. I think they augment those I filched from Jamie Smyth’s excellent round up in yesterday’s FT.

    Feeney wrote an excellent column in yesterday’s IN, saying that what SF needs to do is start producing an economic critique of its own.

    Why? Because its pretensions toward political radicalism are not well served by its own insouciance inside very top layer of regional administration.

    We are rapidly coming to an end to the era in which you can plausibly blame bad Tories, or bad unionists without anteing up detail of what you proposed instead.

    Having listened to it, putting up Gregory (who gets most of his money from Westminster) was a PR stroke from the DUP.

    But Barry’s statement is a case of this ‘easy political money’ of saying one good thing and then doing something else entirely.

    It goes to the heart of non accountability that is helping to waste politics from the neck up in Northern Ireland.

    See Newton today on the way benefit cheats get hammered, but the PPS never get called in to investigate fraud in cases where the NICS suspects strongly it may have happened.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Simple question, please choose,

    Option A – MLAs set their own pay rate,

    Option B – An independent outside panel sets the pay.;

    The obvious answer is B, you cant have it both ways, if the decision is wrong then either the panel got it wrong, or the criteria they were given is wrong. Attack them for it, or challenge the criteria. But I’m sure HM Government will be very grateful for the kind donation from the SDLP. Personally I think the parties should levy their MLA at least the expenses reduction and use to provide services in areas that miss out at present.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good man DR for putting your head up above the parapet…

    It’s worth pointing out that MLA’s already provide a huge amount more constituency services than their counterparts in any part of ‘Blighty’…

    In England north, south, east and west, you meet your MP in a private room in the local public library, not in own their taxpayer provisioned real estate.

    There’s a limited political value to this for the SDLP, but only to the extent there is no real policy frame around it they can continue to exploit.

    But in the short term they are one of several political parties (your own included) that the media have long since written off as irrelevant and have: one, wrong footed all the other parties; and two, bought themselves some hard to come by good publicity.

    And the fact that it was outed on foot of someone else’s FOI some considerable time after they made the decision itself only adds to its authenticity…

    As I will argue in another post later today on broad lessons of the SpadBill issue, Stormont’s cosy insiderly ‘understandings’ are eminently disrupt-able…

  • Morpheus

    “SF needs to do is start producing an economic critique of its own.”

    What is the point of SF doing an economic critique?
    1. Unionism will never accept it
    2. I doubt very much if HMRC and Irish revenue would allow SF to sniff around their books..

    Plus I honestly don’t think there is anyone in the party who could do it judging from the embarrassing performances from the guys they dish out to try to make a case (this mornings Nolan being a case in point)

    Sammy Wilson gets an easy time of it because he can bluff his way through interview after interview because the ‘opponents’ that he comes up against never ask the right questions. He said this morning that NI is £10.5b ‘better off’ being in the UK. That figure comes from the 2010/2011 NI Fiscal Deficit Report compiled by the Department of Finance and Personnel:
    http://www.dfpni.gov.uk/northern-ireland-net-fiscal-balance-report-09-10-10-11.pdf

    NI generates £12.7b from income tax, corporation tax NIC etc. but the other side of that coin is that it costs £23.2b to run the dam place. Northern Ireland takes out £10.5b more than we put into the UK pot – is that better off? Is that sustainable considering the UK debt at Q4, 2012 was £1,347.4 billion and rising by £121b per annum?

    Ask the southeastern English taxpayer if they want to save over £100b over the next 10 years and get rid of the headache which is NI and see if we are ‘better off’ and if things are as ‘secure’ that they are made out to be.

    How can he say we are ‘better off’ if he has absolutely no idea what impact it would have if all the taxes raised on goods/services sold in NI, corporation tax etc. were sent to Dublin rather than London for redistribution. He has no idea on what impact the lower level of corporation tax would have on business. He has no idea how we could benefit from inward investment. None whatsoever and neither does anyone reading this.

  • DoppiaVu

    “He has no idea on what impact the lower level of corporation tax would have on business. He has no idea how we could benefit from inward investment. None whatsoever and neither does anyone reading this.”

    Then do you not think it’s SF’s job to do that analysis/critique? If Sammy’s saying something you disagree with, isn’t it the job of republicans to produce a clear critique of what he’s saying?

    And if SF don’t have the skills within the organisation, there’s plenty of consultants who could do it for them.

  • Morpheus

    No, it’s not the job of SF to compile it but they need to play a part in asking for it.

    As I have explained a SF report into the feasibility of a united Ireland would not be accepted by Unionists for fear of bias, and rightfully so. The feasibility report needs to be independent so I have suggested an international, independent commission which would work hand in hand with the British and Irish Governments. That way we, the electorate North and South of the border, would all have access to all the facts so we can make an informed decision. Simple, no?

    BTW, consultants? Like the consultants who came up with the farcical tax-payer funded report into ‘The Socio-economic Impact of the Traditional Protestant Parading Sector in Northern Ireland’?

  • Mick Fealty
  • Floreat Ultonia

    [i]It’s worth pointing out that MLA’s already provide a huge amount more constituency services than their counterparts in any part of ‘Blighty’…[/i]

    Is there a link or summary of this huge range of services?

    Do MLAs really have counterparts in England? Possibly the closest are councillors on the large metropolitan authorities Who receive allowances rather than salaries (about £20,000 pa in Birmingham).

  • iluvni

    What does one of expensive constituency offices provide that a fulltime fully funded citizens advice bureau couldn’t?

  • Mick Fealty

    FU, well, I get your point. But neither councillors nor MPs (where to be strict about it MLAs would fit in) have the same kind of on the ground structures we have in NI…

    We should perhaps try and map it just to see how extensive those services are?

  • Morpheus

    “Oh dear, here’s Feeney’s column from yesterday…”

    Is there anything you disagree with in there Mick? Ni generates £12.7b in taxes we spent £23.2b:

    Public and common services – £611m
    EU transactions – £73m
    International services – £257m
    Debt interest – £1,276m
    Defence – £1,127m
    Public order and safety – £1,626m
    Enterprise and economic development – £302m
    Science and technology – £103m
    Employment policies – £214m
    Agriculture, fisheries and forestry – £517m
    Transport – £655m
    Environment protection – £262m
    Housing and community amenities – £973m
    Health – £3,831m
    Recreation, culture and religion – £554m
    Education – £2,714m
    Social protection – £7,319m
    Accounting adjustments – £800m
    Total – £23,214m

    Social Protection which I am assuming what Fenny is talking about “social services, benefits, welfare, what have you” accounts for 57% of what NI generates (pre-begging bowl obviously)

    We have next to no control over the income side of the equation – as demonstrated by the CT ‘debate’ – and the expenditure side is out of control. There isn’t a politician in NI who could whip that budget into shape.

    It’s a mess – the greater the deficit the less likely it is that ROI can afford reunification but then again, the greater the deficit the less likely the Southeast English are to keep paying it considering the UK deficit.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good luck with that Morph… I’d say that last clause is written more in hope than expectation…

    My own sense is that when you surrender agency like that to someone else you can expect zero return on your non investment…

  • DoppiaVu

    sshhh….can you hear the sound of all those “Southeast English” demanding NI to be expelled from the UK?

    No I can’t hear it either, and I’m sitting slap bang in the middle of London right now. Nor have I ever heard it (other than on Slugger) nor has it ever been a big issue in the local press.

    Indeed, the types of people you would expect to want to see England go it alone – the far right – seem to be bosom buddies with NI Loyalists.

    So, to paraphrase Mick’s last sentence…dream on.

  • Morpheus

    My last clause is written with realism and expectation Mick. I lived in Southeast England for many happy years and I can tell you from my experience the average person on the street has no idea that their taxes are funding Northern Ireland to this extent. They have zero sense of allegiance to the people of NI and when the cuts come from The Exchequer to reduce the deficit, and they will come, I would expect the £10.5b to greatly reduce – and why shouldn’t it.

    In 2011/12, public spending per head in the UK as a whole was £8,745 per head.
    England – £8,491
    Scotland – £10,088
    Wales – £9,740
    Northern Ireland – £10,624
    http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN04033.pdf

    We get over 25% more per head spent on us than those in England.

    So yeah, I stand by “the greater the deficit the less likely the Southeast English are to keep paying it considering the UK deficit.” – not hope, realism and expectation

  • tacapall

    The British taxpayers have been paying that deficit for a hundred years Morph and only the British establishment know how much it costs annually to keep a British presence in Ireland but you are right there is no such thing as an unlimited purse eventually it will come to an end, but why not jump on the bandwagon while we still can and make it as expensive as possible for the crown, why dont the SDLP take the money, as much as they can claim and give it to charity or use it to buy themselves some votes after that debacle around the special victims law.

  • Morpheus

    “why not jump on the bandwagon while we still can and make it as expensive as possible for the crown, why dont the SDLP take the money, as much as they can claim and give it to charity or use it to buy themselves some votes after that debacle around the special victims law.”

    Because it still comes from the taxes of the SDLP’s voters and the SF voters, and the DUP voters and the UUP voters etc.

    Not taking the £5k a year was a good gesture but it’s a drop in the ocean really. 14 SDLP MLAs at £5k each is just £70K tac – we spend £1127m on defense with a further £1,626m on Public Order and Safety!

  • Innuendo

    “No I can’t hear it either, and I’m sitting slap bang in the middle of London right now. Nor have I ever heard it (other than on Slugger) nor has it ever been a big issue in the local press.”

    They’re a benevolent, paternalist bunch and have been for centuries, I’ll give you that.

    But the look on their faces when you tell them that, for example, Northern Irish householders don’t pay water rates is absolutely priceless. You’re in London: try it today!

    If southern English people knew exactly how their taxes were spent in Northern Ireland then there’d be uproar and a clamour for reform.

  • tacapall

    I pay tax too Morph, I like millions of others have to pay for the upkeep of a billionaire family who dont really need my pittance but who rob me of it anyway. I get where your coming from though, the taxes we pay goes to Stormont does it and the taxes the British taxpayer gives goes to where ? What do you mean “we spend” on defense, who are we defending against ?

  • Morpheus

    Northern Ireland spends £1127m on defense tac. Have you ever heard a politician ask Sammy Wilson why? It takes me back to my point earlier – he bluffs his way through interviews because no one has even tried to get a grip on this and question him.

    SF on Nolan this morning were embarrassing. Maskey on Nolan TV was embarrassing. SDLP are non-existent as usual. Alliance are non-existent as usual.

    We spent £103m on Science and technology – potentially our biggest employer yet Agriculture, fisheries and forestry got £517m. Who questions why?

  • DoppiaVu

    Innuendo – most in the southeast accept that they finance the rest of the UK. It’s just a given.

    It’s widely known down here that prescription fees are free in Scotland; and certainly most people know the farcical imbalance when it comes to tuition fees on both sides of the Scottish Border. Is there a great public clamour in favour of Scottish independence in the South East? Er, no.

    But as for your last point – clamour for reform would be a good thing, imho. NI politicians might stop focussing on green and orange and focus on real issues if the purse strings were to be tightened a bit.

  • tacapall

    I dont really care why Morph, I take no part in British sponsored elections in Ireland nor would I support Sinn Fein or the SDLP but I will happily take as much out of the union kitty jar as I can and believe every Irish person should do likewise, if its good enough for the Windsors then sure why dont we all join in I never asked to be in the union and neither did the Irish people.

  • Morpheus

    “Innuendo – most in the southeast accept that they finance the rest of the UK. It’s just a given.”

    Not innuendo, from personal experience of over 2 decades of living and working there. It is not a given it’s ignorant bliss. Go into London and ask how many know that their taxes pay for Northern Ireland to get 25% more per head spent on us than the English do.

  • FuturePhysicist

    We spent £103m on Science and technology – potentially our biggest employer yet Agriculture, fisheries and forestry got £517m. Who questions why?

    Agriculture has a lot more than 5 times the employees of public research and their costs, the state is subsidising food security which is important to all industries.

    Public science is orientated towards NHS, Defence, Environment and a few neesh areas. The vast majority of the rest is covered by universities and the private sector.

  • Barnshee

    “We get over 25% more per head spent on us than those in England.

    So yeah, I stand by “the greater the deficit the less likely the Southeast English are to keep paying it considering the UK deficit.” – not hope, realism and expectation”

    Cut the subvention to the UK average- reduce DLA -family credit for 2 children only– introduce council tax to replace the “rates” so that ALL contribute.

    “Light the blue touch paper and retire “

  • Morpheus

    “Cut the subvention to the UK average- reduce DLA -family credit for 2 children only– introduce council tax to replace the “rates” so that ALL contribute.”

    What about water charges? Perscription charges?

  • son of sam

    So Barry Mc Elduff and his party have performed a U turn on the pay rise question.Dont suppose we’ll hear a lot about this on the S F twitter sphere .Much easier to whinge about Paul Kavanagh and “discrimination”!It will be interesting to see how they sell this “volte face” to their followers who are suffering the effects of recession.