MLAs' pay could be cut by around a third under new plans

Assembly members' salaries could be cut by almost a third under new proposals

ASSEMBLY members could have their pay slashed by almost a third if power-sharing is not restored.

A report commissioned by Secretary of State James Brokenshire has recommended cutting MLAs' salaries from £49,500 to £42,075 with immediate effect.

If the assembly is not restored within three months, salaries should be cut further to £35,888, the report said.

The plans, published yesterday, were drawn up by former chief executive of the assembly Trevor Reaney.

Mr Brokenshire had ordered a review of MLAs' salaries last month - around the same time as an emergency budget was struck in the absence of a Stormont Executive.

The plans were published a day before the Secretary of State takes his final Northern Ireland Questions of the year in the Commons today.

Mr Brokenshire said last night he will consider the advice.

"I would like to thank Trevor Reaney for his thoughtful advice on the approach to the salaries and allowances of MLAs in the continued absence of an Executive or sitting Assembly," he said.

"This is a matter of significant public concern and it is right to take a considered approach. This is why I asked Mr Reaney to provide me with this advice, which I will consider carefully before responding."

Under the plans, the salaries of MLAs, the speaker and deputy speakers and members of the assembly commission will all be cut.

Staff and office costs will also be reduced and the assembly's travel allowance will be altered.

The speaker could see a salary cut from £87,500 to £55,848, while the deputy speaker could see a reduction from £55,500 to £37,888.

Other recommendations include cutting staff costs from £50,000 to £37,500.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood still sits on the Assembly Commission, even though he lost his seat in March's elections.

Under the plans, the former West Belfast MLA would see his salary cut from £55,500 to £4,800. SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said in October that Mr Attwood returns his annual salary but the process is "cumbersome".

In the same month, Alliance leader Naomi Long said MLAs should face a 30% pay cut if a deal to restore devolution was not made.

"There was a previous assessment that about 70% of what an MLA does is outside the assembly and about 30% is in legislation," she said.

"I think it's about time that the salary was readjusted, at the very least, to reflect that."

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