AFTER almost two years of doing a part-time job, South Antrim’s MLAs are facing the prospect of a lean Christmas.
After months of warnings, Secretary of State Karen Bradley has finally turned the financial thumb screws on the folks (not) on the hill - by trimming a slice from elected reps’ pay packets.
It had been recommended to slash MLA pay from £49,500 to £35,888 - still a healthy sum by most people’s standards - but Ms Bradley decided to do it in increments. Well, it is Christmas.
Instead South Antrim’s gang of five - Steve Aiken, Declan Kearney, Pam Cameron, John Blair and Trevor Clarke - will have to make do with a mere 42 grand.
Bizarrely, the move has been broadly welcomed by the political parties. Publicly at least.
But then it would perhaps be prudent not to complain too loudly. After all, the 90 MLAs are Members of a Legislative Assembly which has done precisely no legislating since Stormont went into mothballs in January 2017.
In September it passed Belgium as the region with the longest period without a functioning government after it crawled over the 590-day line.
The Secretary of State made it clear that it had become untenable offering public money for a conspicuous lack of public service.
“While Assembly members continue to perform valuable constituency functions it is clear that during any such interim period they will not be performing the full range of legislative functions,” she said.
By ‘full’, of course, she could have said ‘any’.
But it’s not all bad news for our elected reps.
Yes, the travel allowance is being trimmed back a little - you know the one that all five maxed out from April to June with claims of £637.50 apiece - but otherwise their expenses are not being touched.
Ms Bradley concluded it would be unfair if staff were allowed to ‘suffer’ because of the inability of their employers to get around the talks table.
And that will be particularly welcomed around the dinner table at UUP man Steve Aiken’s house. After all, his wife is paid as his Communications and Research Officer.
Last month the Antrim Guardian revealed that local MLAs were certainly putting the expense into expensive - with claims reaching an eye-watering £92,913.58 over a three-month period.
That means they were costing £1,021 for each and every one of those 91 days. And that’s before a penny was paid in wages.
Politics is clearly an expensive business. Good job that the pay packet is not related to performance...