Payment of £275k to MLAs for travel to Stormont branded ‘extravagant’

Jim Allister MLA
Jim Allister MLA

The payment of more than £275,000 to MLAs for travel to Stormont between April 2017 and June this year has been branded “extravagant”, given that the Assembly hasn’t been functioning during that time.

That figure includes more than £55,000 claimed by members between April and June this year.

The latest quarterly MLA expenses and allowances figures, published on the Assembly website, reveal that 11 MLAs did not claim any reimbursement for travelling to Parliament Buildings in the three-month period, while several claimed amounts in excess of £1,500.

While Northern Ireland has been without a functioning devolved government since January 2017, elected representatives have continued to use Stormont for a range of functions including talks and constituency business. They are entitled to an allowance solely for travel to Stormont, ranging from £600 within Belfast to £6,200 in Fermanagh and South Tyrone.

North Antrim MLA Jim Allister, who stopped submitting travel claims earlier this year when the government failed to cut MLAs salaries, commented: “It seems extravagant to me as there is little to go there for. I go about once a week, but would previously have been going at least three days a week.

“I stopped claiming as I don’t think it’s an entitlement I should be availing of.”

According to the figures for April 2017 - June 2018, in total just over £7.7 million was paid in expenses - excluding salaries - to sitting and ex-MLAs.

Last month, the Secretary of State confirmed that MLAs salaries are to be reduced by an initial 15% by November 1, and by a further 12.5% from January 1 if an Executive hasn’t been restored.