Fly on the wall over pay

It's not often I say this but I'd love to be a fly on the wall at the party group meetings at the Assembly on Tuesday morning.

That will be the first chance for AMs to discuss the recommendation of the independent remuneration board to give them a £10,000 rise in basic pay.

I'll say at the outset that AMs have had nothing to do with this, and in fact Welsh government ministers will see a reduction in their overall package if you include pension contributions.

But the timing is terrible.

Ordinary working people.

For a start, an independent pay review body recommended a 1% rise for the NHS workforce of around 80,000 in Wales, excluding doctors and dentists, this year and that was rejected by the UK and the Welsh government on cost grounds.

Ministers have just completed their first ever Wales-only pay deal for the NHS, which does include a 1% rise from next April, compared with the 18% proposed increase for AMs.

The public sector Unison agreed to the deal.

Dominic MacAskill, head of local Government with Unison, said that unless AMs challenge general pay restraint in the public sector then they should reject the offer and "lead the life of ordinary working people."

Drive up quality

It also comes as the Welsh government is looking to make substantial cuts in the amount it pays to council leaders, cabinet members and councillors by dramatically cutting the number of local authorities in Wales.

So you can imagine how a pay offer like this is going to go down in town halls across Wales.

The chair of the remuneration board Sandy Blair is hoping the pay award with drive up the quality of AMs.

That is a view that many will agree with but whether they take it to the next step and agree that a pay rise is the best way of securing that is another matter.

Logic to increase

In an interview on Wales Today he also threw the gauntlet onto the political parties saying it was up to them to find high quality candidates, and then up to us the public to elect them.

As controversial as it may be, there is a logic to the increase in that the board says it reflects the rise in responsibility and financial powers which the assembly will be taking on after the next elections.

There are some who say the number of AMs should increase from 60 to 80.

Those who make the argument for a significant pay rise are likely to have to make the case that it would have to sit alongside a reduction in MPs or council leaders.

So far the parties at the Assembly have kept their own counsel. The only suggestion of criticism came from Plaid who said it was out of step with the rest of public sector pay.

All eyes - including those of the fly on the wall - will now be on how they respond.