An investment in Welsh democracy?

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

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 http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/mgConsultationDisplay.aspx?id=172&RPID=1505151153&cp=yes The consultation closes on 8 April, and the Board expects to finalise its proposals by the end of May 2015.

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.

 

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