Stormont special adviser pay 'must be reviewed'
The pay and conditions of Special Advisers at Stormont "must be reviewed" in light of revelations a former aid to Arlene Foster could be in line for a £45,000 'golden handshake'.
The Irish News revealed on Saturday that Andrew Crawford is set to receive a taxpayer-funded pay-out worth up to £45,000 after resigning amid the renewable heat scandal.
The former adviser to DUP leader Arlene Foster was employed as special adviser (Spad) to agriculture minister Michelle McIlveen.
Spads can each earn annual salaries stretching to more than £90,000 and in 2015 the executive said Mr Crawford was within a wage band ranging from £59,037 to £91,809.
He resigned last week after senior civil servant Andrew McCormick said during a hearing of the assembly’s Public Accounts Committee he understood that influence was being exerted by Mr Crawford to keep the scheme running at a high tariff level.
According to the special advisers' code, 'Spads are entitled to a severence package worth up to six months of their annual salary if they quit to stand for election or take part in a party election campaign.
In his resignation statement Mr Crawford said he intends to "campaign for the election of the strongest DUP representation in the next assembly".
The DUP has declined to say whether Mr Crawford will receive severance pay, while the Department for Agriculture has not responded to requests for comment.
Another DUP special adviser John Robinson announced last week he was 'stepping aside' from any future involvement in the botched renewable heat scheme after failing to declare that his father-in-law has two RHI boilers.
The adviser to Economy Minister Simon Hamilton was named, alongside Dr Crawford by former minister Jonathan Bell during a series of allegations regarding DUP special advisers, made under assembly privilege.
"Special Advisers pay and conditions must be reviewed in totality and reformed," an Ulster Unionist Party spokesperson said.
"We now have a situation where one Special Adviser has resigned and another has recused himself from matters relating to the RHI scheme. This appears inconsistent and is confusing to the public who will be wondering why John Robinson is still in post whilst Andrew Crawford has resigned," they said
"The public will be no doubt interested to note that when reforms were put forward in the Assembly they were opposed by both the DUP and Sinn Fein. It is for those parties to explain why they did what they did," they added.
Alliance Party MLA and former Justice minister David Ford said he expects the role of special advisers to be reviewed following the Assembly election.
"As part of any discussions following the election I would expect the role and employment arrangements for special advisers to be considered," the South Antrim MLA said.