Jim Allister sets sights on SpAd excesses

Today, TUV Leader and North Antrim MLA, Jim Allister has set his sights firmly back on the Special Advisers at Stormont.

Having already succeeded in getting one of only two Private Members Bills onto the statute book in the lifetime of this Assembly (the other being Lord Morrow’s Human Trafficking Bill) and the only Bill to be opposed by a major party throughout its legislative passage  – Ann’s Law – which ensured that Special Advisers could not have a serious criminal conviction before taking on such a post, Jim Allister has come back to the same topic after much public frustration at the excesses at Stormont while they are being told to tighten their belts.

It is laughable that the Office of First and deputy First Minister requires more SpAds than the entire Welsh Government, it is less so when you realise that the equivalent SpAds in Wales are costing the tax payers there on average £58,558.50 per SpAd. In Scotland it is up to £73,029.00.

Do you want to know what the average SpAd in Northern Ireland costs you? Based on 2013/2014 figures the average SpAd in the Northern ireland Assembly costs you £103,538.95. You pay for 19 of them at the cost of almost £2m.

Jim Allister’s bill seeks to firstly reduce the number of SpAds – cutting them from 8 to 4 in OFMdFM. It then seeks to reduce their salaries by connecting their role to that of an Assistant Secretary (Grade 5).

Just as important to reducing the number and cost per SpAd, this bill sets out to align SpAds with Civil Service disciplinary process. The case of Stephen Brimstone having a Department of Finance and Personnel report into his treatment of Cllr Jenny Palmer find that he should be subject to disciplinary proceedings only for the DSD Minister to refuse to do so is the clearest example that reform is essential.

You can find the consultation here: http://tuv.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/SpAd-Amendment-Bill.pdf

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  • Kevin Breslin

    There were only four Special Advisors when the UUP and SDLP were in OFMDFM, they’ve grown to six and then to eight when the office already has junior ministers too, who give way to someone else from the executive when Pete’s off sick or Marty’s running for Uachtarán. Junior Ministers are effectively nothing more than two extra SPADs albeit elected ones, having a little reading duty when the First or Deputy First Minister wants a sit down.

    I would encourage both parties to back Jim Allister’s bill here.

    Sinn Féin attack the Dáil for its Special Advisor excesses, they should not be practicing what they preach against.

  • Thomas Girvan

    It is about time!
    The system is being abused and we, the taxpayers have to foot the bill.
    I would like to know what special advice these guys impart.
    Have the MLAs and Ministers no brains of their own, (O.K.I know, it was a rhetorical question.)
    It seems the parties are just giving money to party loyalists or milking it dry for to bolster party funds, (you can guess which is which.).
    Let’s face it the track record of past Spads is hardly reassuring, (think ex-con, bully and pervert).
    The best about it is the parties are allegedly anti-austerity.
    No austerity for Spads!
    Jim Alister must have a chance with this bill.
    Let’s face it,would any of the main parties have the gall to oppose it?
    We’ll see, the voters might just get their eyes opened.

  • barnshee

    I don`t like him but its a good bill

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Seems like a reasonable proposal to curb abuse to me.

    I dare the DUP and SF to PoC it.

  • Chris Jones

    Keep er lit JIm

  • Kevin Breslin

    The DUP might because they had drove the need for additional SPADs even though it’s incompatible with their demands for smaller government, SF might because they could believe that Jim is going after them but if they do I doubt they get any support outside the DUP. But SF might want this but can’t do so unilaterally because it would give the DUP the advantage.

    I’d imagine it would count as one maybe even two DUP/SF petition(s).

  • Chris Jones

    The problem is that the SPADs known where all the bodies are buried so how do you get rid of them

  • Kevin Breslin

    Just red subsection c) the DUP will oppose this to protect Brimstone.

  • Kevin Breslin

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2009/08/26/we-need-more-special-advisors-not-less/ <- Remember when a Top Tory says there should be more?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The SPAD cutback aspect of Jim’s bill will, optimistically, save the taxpayer around £1m/year if it goes ahead. This is a tiny drop in the ocean of what is required to properly realign our finances here.

    While I support Jim’s bill, debates about salaries, expenses and other similar costs are merely a handy distraction away from the fact that the government is doing a terrible job of governing. I don’t care what they earn, within reason, if they’re running the country well.

  • Richard Cairns

    True that £1m is a drop in the ocean in the grand scheme of government spending – but in identifying the waste in this one area and then offering a simple solution it shows that there is a better and more cost effective way to have SpAds.

    Jim Allister would be the first to highlght the total failures of Stormont, but like Ann’s Law this is an attempt to use what legislative provision there is to make devultion work more for the public.

  • Gopher

    While he is at it can he is at it can he introduce another bill that no party in government can sign a petition of concern, to get of this farcical, hypocritical and nonsensical mechanism

  • barnshee

    Its a start at least he can then move on to the scandals in Local Government where the rise of the super councils produced a bonanza
    particularly for chief executives

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I can’t fault you with any of that Richard.

    It is ironic that devolution’s staunchest critic (at least, in its current form) is also the only person pursuing reform based on public opinion. My hat is off to him for that. The man earns his pay.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It probably can’t be applied in retrospect.

    Either way you’re right though, the DUP will probably find some credible excuse to block it.

  • Roger

    Don’t agree for a second. Good on you Jim

  • Roger

    Agree.

  • Roger

    SF might because a few of their buddies are on those salaries.