Four whips and a wad (Mark 2)
What's the value of an Assembly Member?
Priceless? Not a lot guv? You might have your own ideas but the official answer is £1000 a head.
Last month I brought you the story of plans to pay party whips and extra £1000 for every member in their group. Others have picked up on the story more recently. To recap: Carl Sargeant would pocket £26,000, Chris Franks £15,000, William Graham £12,000 and Kirsty Williams an useful £6000. Useful and rather embarrassing because it would mean she took home more than her boss. Sadly for Trish Law she's not a group, so no cash.
I offered a way out. Yes, inter-party relations are more complex in a coalition; the new powers make it vital that things run smoothly. All hard work. So surely the plan was to use the money to pay for secretarial support for the poor whips, just as they've done in Northern Ireland?
No. Apparently it's plan A. Let's give them the money.
Today I got to read the 'Risk Assessment' that's been prepared for the Assembly Commission who meet on Wednesday and who must decide whether the whips get their wad. In it the Commission is warned that there "would appear to be a reputational risk in that the public perception of the Assembly could be damaged by negative media reporting ... without an independent recommendation. There is also a financial risk in setting any salary at a level higher than that which might be eventually recommended by a review'.
There was also a note telling the Commission that this "would be a new departure for the Assembly" and "outside UK practice".
Nick Bourne and Mike German say they were not asked by Rhodri Morgan whether they supported the idea. They say his letter to the Presiding Officer claiming there is "consensus" and that the idea has "gained general endorsement" is "astounding" and "disgraceful". They both believe the independent review of AMs' salaries, which will report in February, should be left to sort this one out.
Were they asked? The First Minister's camp are indicating that "as far as they knew it" the Conservatives were on board. (The Tory whip, William Graham, is on the Commission by the way.)
What about the Lib Dems? Were they part of this 'consensus'? Mmmm, no. But "ultimately this is a matter for the Commission to determine".
Someone's not communicating very well with their colleagues. What shall we do ... pay them a bit more?