Policing Board members paid more than £300,000 despite political limbo

Full pay totalling over £300,000 was given to members of the Policing Board in the past two years, despite it not being able to function properly.

Thursday, 31st January 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 6:56 pm
Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly with George Hamilton at a Policing Board seminar in May 2017
Policing Board chairwoman Anne Connolly with George Hamilton at a Policing Board seminar in May 2017

The body will meet next month to discuss a successor to outgoing PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, having been largely in limbo thanks to the Stormont deadlock.

It is made up of nine independent members and 10 MLAs. But none of the latter could be appointed without a justice minister – something that’s only just been remedied thanks to a change in the law.

This meant that for the last two years, up until now, the board could not hold public meetings to quiz top officers, appoint permanent replacements when senior officers retired, and more.

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Nevertheless the News Letter can reveal all independent members have been in receipt of full pay for the whole time.

The monies they get are as follows: normal independent members get £15,000 per year for four days of work per month; the vice-chair gets £30,000 per year for two days of work per week; and the chair gets £50,000 for three days per week.

During some months a handful of the posts were vacant, making it hard to work out the precise total paid out.

But the News Letter estimates upwards of £315,000 was paid from the time the board last met properly in February 2017 to whenit was brought fully back into action again this month, with the appointment of the 10 MLA members.

Alan McQuillan, an ex-assistant chief constable who formerly helped oversee the pay of MLAs, last year said the political deadlock had reduced the Policing Board to a mere “talking shop denuded of any real power”.

As to what independent members have done for two years, the board said they “focused efforts to keep, as far as practicable, the structures that support oversight and accountability functioning”.

They had also held private meetings with top officers, analysed policing reports, convened seminars to debate “key policing issues”, and held meetings with “a wide range of stakeholders”.

The board added that it does not set members’ pay levels – this is done by the Department of Justice.

UUP Policing Board member Alan Chambers MLA said: “It is through no fault of the independent members that the Assembly fell down and the board wasn’t able to function.”

Fellow member Joanne Bunting of the DUP, said the independent members had continued to provide “scrutiny and assistance and support”, adding that keeping the board ticking over “is a tremendous sap of your time”.