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INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL REVIEW PANEL CONSULTATION ON MEMBERS’ OFFICE COST, TRAVEL AND CHILDCARE EXPENDITURE
The deadline for submitting responses passed at 5pm on Friday 11 September 2015.
This Consultation document (PDF) highlights the Panel’s proposals in relation to changing the current system for Members’ expenses and replacing the existing payments with three new allowable expenses, to be known as:
- Constituency Office Expenses (COE);
- Travel and Subsistence Expenses (TSE); and
- Employment Support Expenses (ESE).
Within the new proposals for expenses payments, the Panel proposes to set out clear and simple rules to:
- Cap expenses in critical areas such as rents and staff salaries;
- Introduce new rules to increase probity and value for money;
- Introduce simpler administration arrangements; and
- Improve transparency and auditability of expenses.
The Panel received 22 response to this consultation. The responses to the consultation, where those responding have consented to publication, are published below.
Commissioner for Standards
Ross Hussey MLA
Mark H Durkan MLA
Gillian Kirk-Lyness, Seconded Officer for NIPSA
Robin Swann MLA, on behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party
Consultation on Northern Ireland Assembly Members’ Salaries and Office Holders Allowances
The deadline for submitting responses passed at 5pm on Friday 29 May 2015
The Independent financial Review Panel has today launched a consultation on the salaries paid to Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the allowances paid to Assembly Office Holders.
Please send your views regarding the questions highlighted within the consultation document at the following link http://nia1.me/salaries by 5pm on Friday 29 May 2015. You can respond either:
- In writing, to;
The Independent Financial Review Panel,
BT4 3XX; or
- By email to: [email protected]
Consultation on Prior Disclosure of Interests
The deadline for submitting responses passed at 5pm on Friday 27 March 2015
The Panel normally publishes one Determination for each Assembly, setting out its assessment of what monies should be paid to members and any restrictions on how they can be paid or spent.
The Panel has a duty to keep this Determination under review and on analysis have decided that a number of changes are necessary. The Panel are of the view that having reviewed the contents of the March 2012 Determination as amended, recent information coming to light and continuing analysis by the Panel have demonstrated that exceptional circumstances, necessitating the issue of a revised Determination, have emerged.
The Panel proposes that the changes will give effect to its intent arising from the 10 Principles agreed by Party Leaders. The Panel would hope to support the effective administration of their proposals through the introduction of these changes at the beginning of the next financial year 2015/16.
The Panel considers that it is the public interest and in the interests of the effective administration of Members expenses that these changes come into effect from 1 April 2015. Members will also understand the benefits of being seen to act promptly and of ensuring that these changes for openness and transparency coincide with the start of the financial year.
You may access the Consultation on Prior Disclosure of Interests document at this link.
Consultation on the Employment of Assembly Members’ Staff
The deadline for submitting comments passed at 5pm on Wednesday 11 March 2015
This consultation focuses upon issues relating to the employment of support staff by Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Office Costs Expenses are intended to be used to allow Members to pay for support for their work in the Assembly and in their constituencies. It generally covers the cost of employing staff, leasing premises and paying office costs. Office Costs Expenses cannot be claimed without proof of the costs incurred and these expenses, which include the cost of constituency offices, must not be used for party political purposes.
In its 2012 Determination, the Panel reduced the total amount which can be claimed under Office Costs Expenses by 3% per year which was similar to the reductions applied to other areas of public sector expenditure following the 2010 Spending Review. For the financial year 2014/2015, an Assembly Member can claim a total of £69,238 in Office Costs Expenses.
As a result of the extension of the current mandate to 2016, the Panel published a further Determination in June 2014 which reduced the total amount which can be claimed under Office Costs Expenses by a further 3% to £67,161 for 2015/2016.
Whilst preparing its 2012 Report, the Panel concluded that a detailed review of Office Costs Expenditure was required. However, in the time available to it this was not possible. The Panel did make a number of general changes and undertook to carry out a more in-depth review for its Determination for the next mandate. As a result of the initial work undertaken, the Panel has decided to consult separately on the elements of expenditure which come within Office Costs Expenses. One of the main elements of that expenditure relates to the cost of employing Assembly Members’ staff and it is that which is the subject of this consultation.
Currently each Assembly Member decides on the type of staff which he/she employs and how much they will be paid. Each member of staff has a job title and a job description. Staff are selected by the MLA concerned and there does not appear to be a recognised recruitment process; thus it is not possible to demonstrate whether staff have been appointed on merit. Our research has indicated that there is no consistency of job titles or job descriptions. There is also a wide range of salaries for posts which appear to be similar. This inconsistency has led us to the view that the expenditure on Assembly Members’ staff may not represent value for money for the Assembly. Also, and very importantly, it questions the equity of the grading, the level of salaries paid for similar jobs and the selection process. One of our guiding principles is to ensure that staff are treated equally and, fairly and from the information available, we are unable to confirm that this is the case.
In our deliberations relating to Assembly Members’ staff we have focussed on the following:
• The support required by an MLA to assist him/her in the Assembly and in his/her constituency;
• the job descriptions of Assembly Members’ staff;
• the salary costs of Assembly Members’ staff;
• the definition of “connected persons”;
• the employment of “connected persons” by MLAs;
• the employment of Party officials;
• the employment of a Director/Trustee of a company which provides services to the Party or to an MLA, and,
• the pension arrangements for MLAs’ staff.
The Panel has prepared a consultation document and would welcome any comments which you may have in relation to this consultation document. You may respond to these questions electronically by completing this form or by email: [email protected]
You may also return the form to the address below:
Independent Financial Review Panel
Room 239, Parliament Buildings
Belfast BT4 3XX
Consultation On NI Assembly Members’ Constituency Office Rents
The deadline for submitting comments passed at 5pm on Friday 19 September 2014
The Independent Financial Review Panel is currently undertaking research in preparation for its next Report and Determination which will take effect in the next mandate. We plan to engage in a series of consultation exercises in relation to the various elements which will be covered by the next Determination. The first of these, which relates to the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme, was completed recently.
Whilst preparing its 2012 Report, the Panel concluded that a review of Office Costs Expenses was required however, in the time available, this was not possible. The Panel made a number of general changes for the current mandate and undertook to carry out a more in depth review for its Determination for the next mandate. The Panel has decided to consult separately on the elements of expenditure which come within Office Costs Expenses. One of the elements of that expenditure relates to constituency office rents and it is these which are the subject of this consultation.
The Panel would welcome any comments which you may have in relation to this consultation document. You may respond to these questions electronically by completing this form.
Independent Financial Review Panel
Room 239, Parliament Buildings
Belfast BT4 3XX
The deadline for responses has been set in the knowledge that that the Assembly will shortly be in recess for the summer months.
Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme: February 2014
In preparation for its next Determination, the Panel launched a consultation exercise to take the views of individuals and organisations on the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme on 18 February 2014. A copy of the consultation document can be accessed here.
The deadline for responses was 8 April 2014.
IFRP Report: March 2012 Report
The Panel launched a public consultation exercise in September 2011 to inform its decisions in relation to Assembly Members’ salaries, office holder allowances, expenses and pensions. A list of those invited to submit comments can be found at Appendix F of the Panel’s Report. Consultation responses can be accessed at this link.
A survey of Assembly Members was undertaken using a questionnaire. A Report on this Survey can be found at Appendix G of the Panel’s Report.