Friday, 27 November 2009

Money, money, money

AS ABBA sang, ‘money must be funny in a rich man’s world’. With merchant bankers and financial gurus still coining it in while the workers stumble through the worst recession since the 1930s, one must wonder what the average MLA thinks of the whole sorry mess.

As they gaze from their windows in Parliament Buildings, contemplating the lives of those that elected them, there can only be one thought in their minds: we just don’t have enough money.

Come Monday, members will vote on the Assembly Commission report on all sorts of MLA money issues.

One recommendation is that MLA’s salary should rise to £48,000 and beyond – a pay hike of at the very least £5k, almost an extra £100 a week before tax. With an eye to their colleagues in other devolved administrations, the cross-party report authors obviously thought that Welsh AMs are no better than themselves, yet they get £10k a year more than their counterparts at Stormont.

Perhaps sensing the public reaction, at least two parties have moved to distance themselves from this recommendation. Sinn Féin says it clouds much of the good parts of the report, while the UUP want salaries set by an independent body.

In the rush to distance themselves, both parties have ignored the irony of their statements. For, if there had not been questions about the way MLAs conduct their financial affairs (i.e. handle taxpayers money) then there would have been no need for this report. And, consistently, independent review bodies have recommended hefty pay rises for elected representatives – neatly avoiding responsibility for those self-same elected representatives when they pocket the extra cash.

When this report comes before the Assembly chamber, one hopes that MLAs have the decency, common sense and all-round nod towards the forthcoming general election to amend the pay rise section.

And if not…well there’ll be plenty of scope for satire in the future.

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