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DUP speaker Robin Newton's pay will also be cut, NIO says

DUP MLA and Stormont assembly speaker Robin Newton. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

STORMONT'S speaker will also have his salary docked under secretary of state Karen Bradley's plans to cut MLAs' pay, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) has confirmed.

The DUP's Robin Newton has remained as speaker of the assembly despite Stormont not operating, receiving a salary of £87,500.

At Westminster on Thursday, Ms Bradley announced that MLAs' salaries of £49,500 would be slashed by more than £13,000 amid the continued collapse of devolved government.

It came almost nine months after an NIO-commissioned report by former assembly chief executive Trevor Reaney recommended a pay cut until an executive is restored.

Ms Bradley told MPs that the assembly members' pay cut, which will take effect in two stages commencing in November, will be "in line with the recommendations".

However, she did not mention Mr Reaney's other proposals to cut the salaries of MLAs still holding office positions despite Stormont's collapse, such as assembly speaker.

In his report, Mr Reaney proposed reducing the assembly speaker's salary from £87,500 to £55,848.

He also proposed reducing the deputy speaker salary from £55,500 to £37,388 and the wages of MLAs who are members of the assembly commission from £55,500 to £40,688.

The pay for non-MLA assembly commission members was recommended to be reduced to £4,800.

Asked yesterday whether the speaker and other office holder salaries will also be cut, a British government spokeswoman said: "The recommendations made by Trevor Reaney are clear and the secretary of state intends to cut officeholders' pay in line with the report."

Earlier, Green Party leader Steven Agnew had called for "clarity on this as a matter of public finance".

Mr Newton faced calls last year to resign as speaker over claims he misled the assembly about his role in UDA-linked community organisation Charter NI.

The East Belfast MLA told the assembly in 2016 that he provided advice to Charter NI as part of constituency duties, but insisted he had never held an official position as an adviser.

But a BBC Spotlight programme broadcast last October claimed Charter NI board minutes indicated he was a key adviser.

Mr Newtown rejected suggestions he misled the chamber, but the embattled politician said he would not stand for the speaker position again in any newly formed assembly.

MLA pay is set to fall from £49,500 to £35,888. The cut will happen in two stages, with a reduction of £7,425 in November and then a further £6,187 drop three months later.

SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone is a deputy speaker. Caitríona Ruane, a former Sinn Féin MLA, resigned as deputy speaker last October. Former UUP MLA Danny Kennedy also reigned as deputy speaker.

The SDLP's Alex Attwood, who lost his West Belfast MLA seat last year, is the only unelected member of the assembly commission.

Last year SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Attwood pays the MLA portion of his salary back, and "wanted to resign" from the commission but "couldn't" while Stormont is not functioning.

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