Consultation On Expenses For Assembly Members’ Constituency Office Rents Launched

The Independent Financial Review Panel (IFRP) has today launched a consultation exercise to take the views of individuals and organisations on the level of expenses which can be claimed by Assembly Members to allow them to lease their constituency offices.

The IFRP was established in July 2011 to determine a level of remuneration which reflects the responsibilities of Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). The IFRP is also required to ensure that the expenses paid to MLAs to carry out their Assembly and constituency duties are set at the appropriate level. The Panel is fully independent and its decisions are not subject to approval by the Assembly.

A copy of the Assembly Members’ Constituency Office Rents Consultation Document and information about the consultation process is available on the IFRP website or by telephone from the Secretary to the Panel (Tel: 90521252).CONSULTATION-DOCUMENT-MEMBERS-CONSTITUENCY-OFFICE-RENTS

The deadline for submitting comments is 5pm on Friday 19 September 2014.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

The Independent Financial Review Panel was established by the Northern Ireland Assembly Members (Independent Financial Review and Standards) Act 2011. Determinations made by the Panel are not subject to approval by the Assembly or the Assembly Commission.

The Panel Chair and members are as follows:

Chair
Patrick McCartan, CBE, MSc (Dist), FCIPD.

Members
Dr Henrietta Campbell CB, MD, FRCP
Alan McQuillan OBE BSc (Hons) MBA

Information on the Independent Review Panel can be found at ifrp.org.uk

For more information please contact:

Secretary
Independent Financial Review Panel
Room 24
Parliament Buildings
Ballymiscaw
Stormont
Belfast
BT4 3XX

Tel: 028 9052 1252
Email: info@ifrp.org.uk

A summary of the Panel’s proposals in relation to constituency office leases is attached

PROPOSALS OF THE INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL REVIEW PANEL IN RESPECT OF ASSEMBLY MEMBERS’ CONSTITUENCY OFFICE LEASES

SUMMARY

 Current PositionProposal
1All constituency office leases should expire within four months after the end of a mandateAll constituency office leases should expire within one month after the end of a mandate
2MLAs can claim up to a maximum amount based on an independent valuation of the rental value of the office premises with a variation of a maximum of 10%, plus a further additional annual amount of £1600.There should be cap on the total amount of rent which an Assembly Member can claim for a constituency office or offices. This will be set by the Panel and will be based primarily on need which the Panel estimates to be up to 800 sq ft of office space.
3The ultimate financial beneficiary of rent paid for premises must be visible and resident, or if a company, registered, within the European Union. Responsibility for ensuring this lies with the MLA entering the lease agreement.Assembly Members will be required to declare the name of the ultimate financial beneficiary of rent paid for constituency offices and should also confirm that the ultimate financial beneficiary is not a connected person but is a resident, or if a company, is registered, within the European Union. The Panel is considering an absolute ban on renting premises from a connected person.
4A member is required to obtain approval before putting signage in place. A photograph of the signage must be submitted with a claim for payment. Assembly Members will not be eligible to claim expenses for any constituency office(s) which does not comply with the rules in the Financial Assistance to Members Handbook relating to signage.
5Currently MLAs are required to sign an annual declaration confirming that all statutory obligations regarding accessibility and health and safety in relation to their constituency offices are being met.Office Costs Expenses can only be claimed for constituency office rents if:
• they are accessible to all constituents, including those with disabilities, whether they travel on foot, by public transport or by car;
• they are open at times which are convenient to constituents;
• the opening hours are publicised, and
• the MLA’s contact details are publicised.

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