Is it time to reduce the number of our MLAs?

Tomorrow the Assembly will debate this motion brought forward by the Alliance party;

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The party claims that if this measure is introduced by the next election that it could see a saving of £11 million over the course of the next assembly term.

One of the proposers of the motion, Stewart Dickson sets out his rationale for proposing it;

Estimates are it would save the taxpayer around £2.2 million each year, or £11 million per Assembly term, in wages, expenses and office costs. That effectively means 75 more police officers or 90 more nurses each year. In a time of austerity, there is no need to potentially wait five years before that money is put back into the public purse.

A place the geographical size and with the population of Northern Ireland does not need a legislature as large as the one we currently have. There is an opportunity for much-needed reform and we need to take it. A streamlined government would be value for money and be more effective for people.

Should this motion be successful, it would mean that we would see the introduction of this measure four years before the Fresh Start agreement planned as the section of that document states (page 19);

MLAsMy understanding of the proposal is that it simply reduces our constituencies from 6 down to 5 seats each.

My questions for the Sluggerverse are;

  1. Is this a good idea to bring forward or should we wait?
  2. What parties would benefit/lose out if this happened in May?


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  • Ryan A

    I wouldn’t dispute the fact that it is opportunist or enterprising; however we are approaching an election.

  • Ryan A

    Westminster results for the last three successive elections have shown a swell in the unionist vote for both the DUP/UUP as it is a swing seat. In each case the combined unionist vote falls back by 2/3k in the following Assembly Election. I would imagine Kinahan got a boost from the centre to oust McCrea. Worth noting David Ford hasn’t contested either of the last 2 WM elections.

  • Gaygael

    So sacrifice the representation of women and minorities to the election?

  • Gaygael

    I will dig out more information for you.
    Maybe you will just refuse to see it?

  • Ryan A

    You’re not showing anything that points directly to the fact women/minorities will be worse off following a reduction from 6 seats to 5. I read through your link. This is your opinion; not a fact.

  • Ryan A

    No – what I was getting at was we are approaching an election – all parties will be in election mode and cuts to the political class are favorable with the electorate.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It might be the case but a reduction to five seats would limit Ford’s transfers if the contest were to be polarized. Alliance I’d imagine would be more UUP friendly than DUP transfer friendly, if the UUP were able to get two over the line on the back of their success, they would effectively have to take a seat from the DUP, with fringe unionists helping the latter. 32% a piece is all that it would take.

  • Gaygael

    I will dig you our more evidence. Too lazy to look for it yourself? It is an appreciated fact.

  • Gaygael

    So do what is political opportunist and baseless populist to the detriment of women’s and other minorities representation?
    Go progressives!

  • Ryan A

    Conceded it would take a perfect storm to get four unionists in; but it could happen. Although; if you look at it from a point of view of all other things being equal and SF only being 0.3% ahead of Alliance (based on 2011), Based on transfer patterns in other similar constituencies you could end up with Alliance taking the lions share of SDLP transfers and SF losing out. It would be a remarkable feat but that might well be the upshot of such a scenario.

  • Ryan A

    Let’s be clear – all parties are in favor of this – including the Greens. This will happen. In time for 2020 if not 2016. No woman or minority group has protested against this. Legislatures are not designed to afford every sect a direct vote in the house on decision making (and as a tax payer I have no wish to fund such a system).

  • Ryan A

    Worth noting the Dail uses STV and it has fewer women than Westminster, proportionally.

  • Roger

    Agree on all that. Let’s not take ourselves too seriously. This is a blog.

  • Gaygael

    And worth noting the dail has introduced quotas.

    I will get the report to you.

  • Gaygael

    Yes. Most parties are, including the Greens. And yes, it probably should happen as we evolve from a post conflict society. (Are we really evolving or are we Balkanising?)

    The coming reduction is an opportunity to get these things right. Let’s be measured and considered about it so it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on the representation of women, other minorities and the diversity of views in our assembly. Let’s do it with quotas and a top up system.

    Legislatures should reflect the society they represent. ‘Sect’ might not be the right use of language by you. As a citizen, who also pays tax, I would like to see my assembly reflecting the society I live in, yet there are currently no out LGBT MLAs. That’s not representative. Almost a fifth are women, which is hugely unrepresentative. There is a sole BME representative, which is not fully representative.

    The only ‘sects’ afforded special representation are the bishops and other religious leaders in the House of Lords, which you as a ‘tax payer’ currently fund.

  • Greenflag 2

    Perhaps your old man could have suggested that they be shot in the foot which normally would not be lethal 😉 ?
    On the other hand some wag no names mentioned might suggest that shooting themselves in the foot is already standard operating procedure in the Assembly and thus getting somebody else to do the necessary would be a waste of taxpayers time and money 😉

  • Greenflag 2

    “we have not yet evolved into a post conflict society. ”

    Your “yet ” seems to suggest a certain inevitability. In reality there is no inevitability as to a particular direction in which evolution may or may not operate . Human beings were not destined to be . We are all here due to a long sequence of geological upheavals and fortuitous interventions by a chaotic universe. What holds true for animals including humans may also holds true for political and social systems . Political extinction is also a possibility . Some fauna animal or otherwise simply can’t adapt in the time frame necessary to survive .Which is why 99.99% of all species that ever existed are now extinct . The same holds true for political institutions and ideologies which are out of time .

    Fauna by which I mean animal , plant and other life normally evolve slowly but there are times when there are great leaps forward ( not the right word for there is no forward in evolution ) but these are usually presaged by global catastrophies which wipe out from 50 % to 95% of all life and then it takes tens of millions of years for new forms -those who could adapt to recolonise the Earth again . Political systems don’t operate as per geological time frames -at most a couple of centuries or more in exceptional circumstances is all they last for . What we call ‘democracy ‘ may be approaching time up even in the lands of it’s birth 🙁

    A long way from the NI Assembly perhaps but it may be that the Assembly is not fit for the future and never will be . Tinkering round with the number of MLA’s is just spinning wheels or replacing deck chairs on the Titanic. Meanwhile any great leap forward is held in check by the numbers both demographic and financial . Thus a slow extinction beckons as the most likely result .

    Managing that ‘extinction ‘ may not sound too positive but its about all that one can expect given the local history and current conditions .

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Very diplomatic thinking GF, good work.

  • Greenflag 2

    If we could but have the gift that God would gie us we would all wish to have the same wisdom in foresight as we have with hindsight 😉

    It was I believe the former Lord Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who made a similar comment during the financial crisis a couple of years back re hanging one bankster week until they improve . Some optimist pointed out to him that at that rate it could take several years but that after a couple of years or so the public might start feeling some sympathy for the b*******ds 😉

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Yes, I am. Your definition of “subject” has not applied in what is now the UK since the time of the Magna Carta.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    It may reduce representation of smaller parties in the assembly. It may reduce the representation of women.

    okay then. Why are you not proposing that the number of assembly seats are increased in order to promote more small parties and increase the proportion of women ?

  • Gaygael

    We are arguing for quotas.
    Something alliance have party policy against.
    And we support a reduction with a regional list system like the Scottish model.