An investment in Welsh democracy?

Sandy Blair outlines draft plans that will see higher salaries for Assembly Members.

Increasing the capacity of the National Assembly for Wales has been one of the key drivers of the work of the independent Remuneration Board as we prepare for the next Assembly.

In publishing our draft Determination for the remuneration and financial support for Members in the Fifth Assembly on 6 March, we were mindful of the radical changes that the Assembly has undergone already and which lie ahead. This puts a growing burden on opposition Members in particular.

Our draft Determination reflects the fact that after the 2016 election, the National Assembly will be a very different institution to that which it has been previously. It will have law-making, tax-setting and borrowing powers like those of the UK and Scottish Parliaments. It may even be called a Parliament.

Three elements of our draft Determination are intended to address capacity:

  1. Setting a salary which reflects the responsibilities on AMs in the Fifth Assembly and which encourages the best candidates to put themselves forward for selection (by the parties) and election (by the public).
  2. Allowing Members to employ a ‘senior advisor’ on a higher salary to support them in their work.
  3. Our proposals to reform party group support would ensure that all opposition Members would receive some additional support for their scrutiny of the Government. While there are only 60 Members, it is vital that all can make an effective contribution. In addition we are proposing a cap on the total expenditure on this item.

Of course, there is a cost to these changes.

Once you factor out the savings we are making through reform of the Assembly Members’ Pension Scheme and reductions to the total remuneration of some posts (c.£315,000) we estimate the total increase in costs to be around £800,000.

This is an investment in Welsh democracy – in the capacity and quality of the Assembly so that it is fit for purpose as more powers are devolved.

Democracy is important, and a recent BBC Poll showed that the Assembly is the democratic institution people feel is most likely to improve things for them and their families.  We hope our draft Determination is a step towards delivering the greater capacity and quality the Fifth Assembly will need if it is to live up to the hopes of the people of Wales.


Sandy Blair is the Chair of the is the Chair of the Remuneration Board of the National Assembly for Wales. Full details of the draft Determination for the Fifth Assembly can be seen at The consultation closes on 8 April, and the Board expects to finalise its proposals by the end of May 2015.

8 thoughts on “An investment in Welsh democracy?

  1. The idea that throwing more money at anything can improve either personal or organisational performance is fundamentally flawed.

    Based on the last 16 years of abject failure, the likely outcome of more money being poured into personnel in is that a broken legislature will simply become more expensive to run and the snouts in the trough will have more reasons to grow their empires, recycle their failed cronies, and cover their arses to a degree which has made accountability for failure a pipe-dream. It’s hard to believe that many of the current high profile incumbents would have lasted long in the private sector but, sadly, the American idea of reward for failure now seems to have taken root here as well.

  2. Sandy Blair is throwing at the wrong coconut. Yes, Wales needs higher quality AMs but it also needs more AMs since there aren’t currently enough independent ones to staff committees properly and I know from observation that government ministers get far, far too easy a ride. Will the public stand for more AMs and higher pay? No chance, I’d have thought. And we don’t know that higher pay will mean better quality. As long as party caucuses control lists and candidates, they’ll select in their own image. So it is more important to focus on getting more AMs. Some will be competent on the law of averages.
    As for surviving in the private sector, John, you mean like the bosses of RBS or HSBC who are able to crash a bank, defraud the public admit responsibility without taking the blame and hang on to a job with the salary of several million pounds? Do you realise we could pay 100 AMs for the salary of one incompetent bank CEO? Do give over with this private sector romanticism. You find incompetent spongers in all sectors.

  3. A better tomorrow, somehow I don’t see it – The last 16 years have been nothing other than the abuse of anything that can even be remotely associated or defined as a democracy.

    How on earth would one explain or justify a Social Engineering programme that has not been seen in Europe since the Stalinist period – Empowering a minority to rule majority and in the process creating conditions of inequality beggars belief.

    Welsh media is petrified to challenge the Welsh Government and hardly ever anything is said about the corrosive and damaging aspects of the Orwellian proportions that seem to be rife in Wales.

    BBC Wales is the prime example what they stand for and it’s well worth watching last week’s Wales Report:

    A small caution and a warning, some viewers may need a sick bucket whilst watching what can only be described as an unmitigated propaganda for a policy that has already failed.

    Nothing wrong with promoting a minority language and its culture through sensible, practical and affordable measures but its imposition as a ‘national language’ of Wales is destructive and damaging as we have already seen it in Welsh Education, NHS and Economy!?

  4. I think the ‘salaries’ of out AM’s should be even higher than that proposed to get even better qualified ‘people’ running our affairs than there at the present time. The welsh people are very ungrateful as our new ‘democracy’ replaces the ‘yolk’ of the English invaders,and for that alone expenses are a small price to pay!!.The evidence of the success of our ‘rulers’ is the public ownership of our own national Airport which will shortly be the major European HUB,and all because our First Minister thought it a DUMP when he used it for the first time some years ago. With success like this throughout our a)economy,b)health,c) education we can look forward greater and greater wealth if we INVEST in OUR DEMOCRACY so lets do it and reap the benefits!!

  5. What is the relationship between ever increasing reward and “quality” in this context? None.

    AMs are the instruments of their parties. They are there because they are so favoured and selected from within those very narrow circles. Their “ability” is the ability and willingness to conform to those specific political norms and demands. It has nothing to do with ability or quality in any wider sense. They are not potential neuro-surgeons, they are party placemen and women.

    The hype about “paying for democracy” is self serving cant from those now so blind or grasping that they are clueless as to the damage this will do to actual Welsh “democracy” and the already suspect persona of the Assembly, UKIP must think its Christmas.

  6. Where is the evidence of consistent success amongst our politicians? Where are the politicians whose contribution to the work of the Assembly (rather than their political rhetoric) makes you proud that Wales has such people? Where are the men willing to challenge even deeply entrenched ways of thinking in order to give us better freedoms or a more hopeful future?

    Whatever we pay our representatives, we do not get quality in return. Will paying them more get greater quality of thought or greater intellectual capacity or more energy and courage? Not one Iota.

  7. In fact, there is absolutely no empirical evidence of a positive correlation between level of payment and the quality of elected representative. Absolutely none.

    Indeed, observation suggests the opposite may be true. Over the last 30 years we have seen how increasingly ‘professional’ politicians even at the local level have driven out amateurs who were sometimes people of considerable achievement in private, business, community, or professional life. The latter served out of a sense of public or community service. To make service attractive in purely financial terms to such high-flyers would require politically unacceptable levels of pay. Levels of pay considered ‘high’ by most are therefore attractive to people who are not especially successful but no inducement in themselves to those who are. The net effect of increased levels of payment of politicians over the last 30 years has been an influx of otherwise undistinguished people who see politics as a relatively lucrative source of income and a decline in the notion of serving for the honour of serving.

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