Stormont members to have pay cut amid long-running assembly stalemate, Government announces
Stormont assembly members will have their pay slashed while legislation will be brought forward from Westminster to keep local services running, the Northern Ireland secretary has said.
Karen Bradley announced today that MLAs will have their salaries cut from £49,500 to £35,888 and then by a further £6,187, while they fail to perform the “full range of their legislative functions”.
Those on higher ministerial salaries will also have their pay docked accordingly, while travel expenses will also be curbed.
The Secretary of State insisted however that MLAs' staff would not see their earnings reduced.
Speaking in the Commons, she told MPs that the people of Northern Ireland are "suffering" and that "local decision-making is urgently needed to address this".
On the issue of pay, she said: "The reduction will take effect in two stages, commencing in November - it would not reduce the allowance for staff as I do not think that MLAs' staff should suffer because of the politicians' failure to form an Executive."
Northern Ireland has been without an power-sharing executive since January 2017, when Sinn Fein pulled out in protest at the DUP's handling of a botched renewable energy scheme.
A fresh election was held later in the year but failed to break the deadlock, while talks between the parties have stalled ever since.
Responding to Ms Bradley's announcement, shadow Northern Ireland secretary Tony Lloyd welcomed the decision on pay but said it was overdue.
"I know members on all sides of the House have been urging this on the Secretary of State. It is well beyond time so that is step in the right direction," he said.
But also urged Ms Bradley to take further action to restore democratic accountablilty to the region, saying: "There are many, many decisions now that are held in log jam because of the democratic crisis in Northern Ireland."
Among the key sticking points are demands from the republican party for a standalone Irish language act and legislation to align the law on gay marriage and abortion with the rest of the British Isles.
Ms Bradley also announced that ministers will bring forward legislation that would allow civil servants to continue to make decisions, and to prevent the need for a fresh election.
She added: “I recognise that there is a need to provide reassurance and clarity to both the Northern Ireland Civil Service and the people of Northern Ireland on the mechanisms for the continued delivery of public services.
“So, the legislation I intend to introduce after the conference recess will also include provisions to give greater clarity and certainty to enable Northern Ireland departments to continue to take decisions in Northern Ireland in the public interest and to ensure the continued delivery of public services...
"I have not believed and do not now believe that holding an election during this time of significant change and political uncertainty would be helpful or would increase the prospects of restoring the Executive."
She added: "I intend, therefore, to introduce primary legislation in October to set aside for a limited and prescribed period the legal requirement to propose a date for a further election."
The minister also vowed to kickstart talks again in "the next few weeks" between the UK and Irish governments and Northern Irish parties in a bid to breakthrough the stalemate.
UK ministers have faced calls to reduce members' pay since last December, when a report by former Assembly chief executive Trevor Reaney recommended the 27.5% cut until a functioning Executive was restored.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Whilst only a small step towards decisions being made, we welcome the statement from the Secretary of State.
“Ultimately, Northern Ireland needs a Ministerial decision-making mechanism which respects democracy.
“We have been and will continue to press the Government to get a mechanism in place which can ensure decisions about front line services are no longer left in abeyance.
“We will continue to engage with the Government in the coming weeks to find the best way forward."