Northern Ireland MLAs' salary cut by 27.5% to £37,000 a year

MLAs’ pay in Northern Ireland is set to be cut by little over a quarter to around £37,000 a year as the Assembly and Executive limbo continues, the Secretary of State has said.

Assembly Members currently receive an annual salary of £51,500 a year, which is to be cut by 27.5% in a form of collective punishment, following on from the DUP refusing to nominate Ministers which has left Northern Ireland without an Executive.

Announcing the pay cut on Wednesday, Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris said that he expected the move would be widely welcomed “when so many are concerned about the cost of living in Northern Ireland”.

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People across Northern Ireland are frustrated that their Members of the Legislative Assembly continue to draw a full salary whilst not performing all of the duties they were elected to do. I will thus be asking for this House’s support to enable me to reduce MLAs’ salaries appropriately.”

The Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

He later elaborated when questioned that based on the precedent set by his predecessor, the late James Brokenshire, some years back ‘the percentage that I would be looking at would be the same as then, which was 27.5%’.

The latest NISRA statistics published last month show that the average annual earnings for all full-time employees in NI stands at £30,000, lower than the UK median of £33,000.

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The highest 10% of earners earned approximately £54,500 and above.

The Secretary of State also announced that he was extending the deadline for the NI Executive to return and the date by which an election has to be called.

Different times: January 2020 - Ministers from a previous NI Executive with the then First and Deputy First Ministers Arlene Foster and Michelle O'Neill.

“This Government believes that this is the moment for the restoration of the devolved institutions and will work to that end as a matter of the utmost priority,” he said.

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“I and this Government believe strongly that people in Northern Ireland deserve a functioning Assembly and Executive, where locally elected representatives can address issues that matter most to the people that elect them.

“That is why, back in May, people cast their votes in Northern Ireland - to give their communities a voice in Stormont."

While most MLAs have wanted to restore the institutions, the DUP boycott, which it says is in protest over the NI Protocol agreed by the British government and the EU following Brexit, which the DUP supported, has prevented the Executive getting back up and running.

Mr Heaton in his statement said “for six months the Parties have not come together and, on the 28th October, the deadline to form an Executive, set down in law passed. That was the Northern Ireland Ministers, Elections and Petitions of Concern Act 2022. This is hugely disappointing.

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“As a result, Mr Speaker, I am bound by law to call new elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly, as set out in the New Decade, New Approach agreement, that have to take place within 12 weeks of the 28th October.

“Since 28th October I have been engaging widely in Northern Ireland, with the parties, businesses, community representatives and members of the public. And I’ve also spoken with other international interlocutors.

“I think it would be fair to say, Mr Speaker, that the vast majority of those I have spoken to think that an election at this time would be most unwelcome.”

He added that there was a “massive £660m black hole in this year’s public finances at the same time as their public services are deteriorating”, with almost 187,000 people in Northern Ireland have been waiting for over a year for their first outpatient appointment.

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He claimed concerns over the functioning of the NI Protocol his Conservative Party and government negotiated were ‘legitimate’, and further claimed that ‘this is felt across Northern Ireland and very strongly indeed in the Unionist community’.

“I will be introducing legislation to provide a short, straightforward extension to the period for Executive formation - extending the current period by 6 weeks to December 8, with the potential of a further six week extension to January 19 if necessary.

“This aims to create the time and space needed for talks between the UK Government and the EU Commission to develop and for the Northern Ireland Parties to work together to restore the devolved institutions as soon as possible.”