UKIP AM Neil Hamilton could get Welsh home costs paid
UKIP's Neil Hamilton could have some of his living costs paid by the taxpayer, despite not living in Wales.
The Assembly's independent Remuneration Board is considering a change in the rules to allow AMs to claim more than £8,000 for Cardiff accommodation expenses if they live in England.
The idea has been criticised by Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins.
But the board said it is required by law to put in place financial resources to allow AMs to carry out their duties.
Mr Hamilton, the leader of the seven-strong UKIP group in Cardiff Bay and is AM for Mid and West Wales, lives in Wiltshire.
A consultation on the proposal is underway until 16 September.
Under existing rules, AMs who live in the "outer area" of Mid and West Wales and North Wales can claim up to £8,820 per year.
AMs are allowed several options which include claiming the cost of renting a furnished property in Cardiff, reimbursing expenses relating to a property in Cardiff used by a member, or claiming the cost of overnight stays in Cardiff.
Under the proposal, outlined in a letter to AMs from board chairwoman Dame Dawn Primarolo, this rule would be amended so those who live outside Wales would be eligible - extending the outer area.
The letter said the existing rules were based on the assumption all AMs live in Wales.
There is nothing in current legislation that says AMs should reside in any particular location "either when they are elected or subsequently", Dame Dawn said.
It is understood rules which reduce the expenses allowed if you live nearer Cardiff would remain under the proposals - effectively extending the outer area to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Currently, members who live in the "intermediate area" of Gower, Neath, Swansea East and Swansea West constituencies can get £3,420 for overnight stays.
Those in the inner areas of South Wales West, Central and East can get "overnight stays in exceptional circumstances".
But Bethan Jenkins, Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West, criticised the proposals.
She said: "I genuinely believe that AMs should live and work in Wales if they are serious about representing their constituents.
"If you live outside Wales how can you possibly be as in touch and as close to your community?
"If there were interim proposals in place to help AMs who live outside Wales to move here then I would be relaxed about that, but I am worried immensely about the precedent this sets - that it will say to people, become an AM for Wales and live elsewhere."
Labour's Llanelli AM Lee Waters said on Twitter: "Remuneration Board plans to let AMs who don't live in Wales to claim for [a second] home in Cardiff.
"Shouldn't be allowed to stand, let alone claim."
Dame Dawn said: "The independent Remuneration Board is required by law to put in place financial resources that enable assembly members to carry out their duties as elected representatives."
She said: "No member should be impeded from undertaking the role they have been elected to do.
"The people of Wales decided who they wanted to elect on 5 May and they expect the board to ensure that those 60 members have appropriate and reasonable resource in place to represent them to the best of their ability."
She said she would welcome "any comments" the public and AMs may have.
At the time Mr Hamilton became group leader he said he lived "less than an hour from Cardiff".
"For the time being I'm living where I lived for the last ten years," he said, adding there was a "big logistical problem to solve" about where he based himself.
A spokesman for Mr Hamilton has been approached for comment.