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
Richard is vice chairman of TUV; and an advisor to Jim Allister MLA.