Assembly Commission members paid allowance of almost £1,500 per meeting after just four sittings last year

The Assembly Commission sat four times last year, meaning each member was entitled to an allowance of almost £1,500 per meeting. Picture by Paul Faith/PA Wire
John Monaghan

MEMBERS of the Assembly Commission, which oversees the administrative running of Stormont, were each entitled to allowances equivalent to almost £1,500 per meeting last year, with the body sitting just four times in 2017.

According to minutes of the meetings on the Assembly website, the Commission met in May, July and September.

It also sat in November, although minutes of that meeting have not yet been published.

In contrast, it convened eight times in 2016 and on 11 occasions in 2015.

Commission members are entitled to £55,500 a year, comprising an allowance of £6,000 on top of the £49,500 annual salary paid to all MLAs.

New rules, published in 2016 and which came into effect in April 2017, gave MLAs who sit on the Commission a £500 per year increase in their allowance.

Taking the £6,000 annual allowance on its own, including the three months prior to April at the lower rate, it means that members were entitled to an average of £1,468 per meeting in 2017.

One MLA from each of the five main parties make up the body, and it is chaired by the speaker, the DUP's Robin Newton.

The Assembly Commission said that Mr Newton "receives no additional remuneration for the role of chair" and the salary payable to him is that which he receives as speaker.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP were the only parties to respond to a request for comment from The Irish News regarding the allowances.

The SDLP said that Alex Attwood, who lost his Assembly seat in March but remains on the Commission because the institutions are suspended, has arranged to pay back his MLA salary to the Treasury but retains the Commission allowance.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said: "The Assembly Commission on which Alex Maskey sits is the corporate management body for the property, staff and services, including ongoing contracts at Stormont, and as a result continues to work to deal with these issues."

The other MLAs on the Commission are Alliance's Stewart Dickson, Jim Wells of the DUP and the Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann.

The date of the next Commission meeting is yet to be confirmed.

Figures released in response to an Assembly question show that members of the Commission were paid a total of more than £270,000 in combined salaries up to September 30.

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