Northern Ireland

MLA expenses: 'Radical changes' to Stormont regime

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Media captionPat McCartan said the "radical changes" will enhance public confidence

An independent panel has made significant changes to the rules on MLAs' expenses.

The new regime will begin immediately after the assembly election in May.

The chair of the Independent Financial Review Panel, Pat McCartan, said the "radical changes" will "enhance public confidence in our politicians".

As part of the changes, an MLA's basic salary will rise from £48,000 per year to £49,000.

Under the previous regime, MLAs could claim an expenses entitlement of just over £67,000, but this system has been scrapped.

MLAs will be now be allowed to employ a maximum of two full-time staff, with a total wage bill of £50,000.

All future vacancies for MLA support staff will be filled after a public advertisement and open competition.

MLAs will only be able to employ one close relative.

Stormont politicians will only be able to have one office in their constituency.

The rent limit for constituency offices will be £8,500.

MLAs will also be able to claim an extra 40% for rates.

These allowances will be reduced if MLAs share offices with other politicians.

MLAs will not be able to claim expenses for offices rented from their parties or "connected individuals or groups".

There will also be restrictions on office signs.

Assembly logo

Publicly-funded offices must not be called "party advice centres" and any party logo must be accompanied by an assembly logo.

The system for claiming mileage will be replaced by a fixed travel allowance for each constituency.

The amount will vary depending on distance from Stormont.

In relation to wages, MLAs' pay will rise by a further £500 each year if inflation is more than 1%.

Junior ministers' salaries will be cut from £60,000 to £55,000.

The speaker's salary will drop from £92,000 to £87,000.

The panel expect that their decisions will generate savings of up to £2m over the next five years.

A spokesperson for the Assembly Commission said it was working closely with the panel, and would prepare a members' handbook summarising the findings.

"There will be a considerable amount of work over the next few weeks to prepare for the changes necessary to implement the new determination, and to brief members on its provisions in time for their return to the assembly after the election," they said.

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