In particularly, the autumn statement also included attacks on the pensions of all working people. The state pension age was already due to increase to 68 in 2046, but the British coalation government has brought that forward by 10 years, meaning that people who are in their mid-forties now will not be able to take their state pension until they are 68. The Westminister Pensions Bill, which applies to the North of Ireland, also allows the British government to increase the pension age every five years if it wishes – and the British government has already announced that, if its plans stay on course, people in their thirties will have a pension age of 69 and people in their twenties will have one of 70.
My union, NASUWT, which is by far the largest teacher’s union in the North of Ireland, is appalled by the ‘work till you drop’ culture that is now the British government’s vision for the people of Britain and the North of Ireland. Increasing the pension age during a period of unemployment and the worst recession for decades is utter madness, as it reduces already scarce job vacancies as those in work are being forced to work for longer. The people of the North of Ireland have no control over the Westminster Pensions Bill, but they do have control over the Public Service Pensions Bill, which is due to begin the consideration stage in the assembly after CChristmas. The Public Service Pensions Bill equalises the normal pension age and the state pension age for the majority of public service workers in the North of Ireland, including teachers, health workers and civil servants. This means that young Northern Irish teachers can expect to have to work until they are 70 to receive their teacher’s pension – unless the bill is changed. The NASUWT has been at the forefront of lobbying our MLAs to bring amendments to the bill in the interests of the young and old, those in work and those who are unemployed. We call on our MLAs to stand up for all public service workers who dedicate their lives to serving the public. When assembly elections are next held we will be calling on our members to vote only for those MLAs who defend them.
With many thanks to: Justin McCamphill, NASUWT uunion’s NI junior vice president, writing for: The Irish News.
MORE than half the DUP‘s Storming team use taxpayers’ money to employ family members in their offices. According to the assembly’s register of interests 22 of the party’s 38 MLA‘s have relatives working for them.
The figure is twice as many as all other parties combined. The total wage bill for MLAs‘ relatives working at Storming has been estimated at £500,000. In the wake of the expended scandal at West minister rules were introduced allowing MPs to employ one family member. No such rules exist at Storming. DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson, who has never employed a family member, defended the practice. “Provided people can do the job then there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be employed,” he said last night.”It happens in every walk of life and it’s not regarded as nepotism there so why should it be regarded any different in political life?” However, N121 assembly member John McCallister said the high number of relatives working for MLAs could give the public the wrong impression. “I’m sure many of these family members who work for MLAs do a very good job but unfortunately it does little to enhance the image of us politicians,” he said. “The perception that nepotism is rife can only further damage politicians in the ppublic’s minds.”
The register shows four Ulster Unionists, three SDLP, two Alliance and one Sinn Fein member have given jobs to their family members or relatives of other MLAs, while TUV leader Jim Allister employs his daughter as a part-time secretary and researcher. Among those employed at Stormont or working on behalf of MLAs include DUP leader Peter Robinson’s daughter and daughter in-law, foformer UUP MLA Billy Armstrong is employed by his daughter Sandra Overend, while employment and learning minister Stephen Carry employs his wife. The recruitment process for party workers is not governed by Fair Employment law, so in effect assembly members can employ anybody they wish. Mr McCallister said he was glad rules had been introduced at Stormont which forced MLAs to reveal which members of their family they were employing. “It’s difficult area to regulate but it’s much better now that assembly members must declare where they are employing family members or relatives of other party representives,” he said.
With many thanks to : John Manley, Political Reporter, The Irish News.
Email: J.manley@iiris news.com
Whose wages do taxpayers pay?
Jonathan Bell employs his wife as a part-time secretary and researcher; employs Peter Robinson’s son as constituency manger and the DUP leader’s daughter-in-law as a part-time secretary.
Paula Bradley employs her cousin as part-time office support.
Gregory Campbell – jointly employs fellow MLA George Robinson’s son as a researcher.
Trevor Clarke employs his wife as a part-time clerical assistant.
Jonathan Craig paid his brother-in-law consultancy fees for design, update and maintenance of website.
Michelle Mcllveen employs her brother as a researcher and office manager.
Adrian McQuillan employs sister-in-law as a full-time researcher, aunt as a part-time assistant secretary and jointly with two other members, employs a nephew of George Robonson as a researcher.
Robin Newton employs his son as a resarcher/constituency worker and wife as a secretary/office manager.
George Robinson employs his son as an office manger and personal assistant and jointly with two other members, employs a nephew as a researcher.
Peter Robinson employs his daughter as office manager.
Alastair Ross employs his sister-in-law as a constituency case worker.
Jimmy Spratt employs his wife as a part-time manager.
Alex Attwood employs his brother as a constituency assistant
John Dallat employs his wife as an office administrater
Pat Ramsey employs his wife as a driver and his wife’s nephew as a parliamentary assistant.
Roy Beggs employs his wife as a part-time secretary.
Leslie Cree employs his wife as a part-time researcher.
Joanna Dobson employs her sister one day per week as a clerical officer
Sandra Overend employs her father Billy Armstrong, a former MLA, on an ad-hoc basis to undertake advisory and constituency work.
Stephen FCarry employs his wife as a senior researcher.
Korean McCarthy employs his son on a part time basis for general office duties.
Fra McCann employs a nice of Paul and Alex Maskey as a personal assistant.
Jim Allister employs his daughter part-time as a secretary and office manager.
THE IRISH NEWS
Pro Fide Patria
Time to end jobs for boys culture
AT A time when the ccredibility of our devolved structures has been increasingly called into qquestion, it may not come as a complete surprise to find that so many DUP MLAs insist on using public funds to employ family members in their offices.
Our investigation today has established that more than half of the members of the DUP’s assembly group have given posts to relatives of eleceted representives, with the total figure twice that of all other parties combined. Although no-one is suggesting that any rules have been broken, the thinking which leads to the selection of partners, children, ccousins and even in one case a parent is still striking. Jobs of all kinds are very hard to come by these days and ordinary voters may well think that attractive opportunities in the managerial, secretarial and research sectors both at Storming and constituency level should go to the best available candidate. Indeed, progress over fair employment has taken decades to achieve and it is reasonable to expect that MLAs should set a positive example to the wider community in this respect. However, cynics will have noted how clear it is that sharing a name or a blood line with a DUP politician provides a huge advantage when it comes to filling in an application form. After all the uproar over the special advisers, when it emerged that some parties could be handing out key portions offering enormous salaries provided by the tax payer in almost complete secrecy, this is another damaging episode. The main problem with appointing special advisers and other party posts is the almost total lack of transparency and accountability which surrounds the entire process. If journalists from The Irish News and other outlets did not persistently ask questions of the authorities and frequently receive hostile treatment as a result, important information would never enter the public domain. Politicians who are operating in previliged circumstances should remember at all times that they are spending our money and the least we can exexpect is that they should tell us exactly what they are doing with it.
MANY observers were yesterday highlighting the irony of a party which includes the word ‘democratic’ in its name effectively blocking the overwhelming will of the assembly.
But we knew this was always going to be the outcome once the DUP announced its intention to lodge a petition of concern to veto an inquiry into the allegations of political interferance against Nelson McCausland. A measure designed to stop majoritiaranism – or blatant sectarianism – at Stormont, petitions of concern weren’t something that much occupied the thoughts of Joe and Joe Public until the assembly was recalled to address the Red Sky controversy. They may now be more familiar with its workings and how it can be deployed, but it’s unlikely the whole episode will enamour them to politics on the hill. A clear majority of assembly members – 54 to 32 – supported the motion calling for a probe into the actions of Mr McCausland and his special adviser Stephen Brimstone.
MLAs had returned from recess, albeit after a few short days, and the chamber wwitnessed some passionate and at times bruising debate. But it was all for the optics because no matter how heated and pointed the exchanges became, the predetermined outcome meant they carried no greater weight than a Sunday school debating contest. In political terms we were back where we started. Unfortunately that is the nature of the Storming beast. Power sharing may the concept of devolved institutions are built on but it seems power ultimately resides with the party that can consistently muster 30 signatures and lodge a petition of concern whenever it is unhappy with a particular assembly motion.
The upshot is therefore not democracy but an inverted form of majoritarianism. It’s a system that leaves the majority party in a position where it can overrule the rest of the assembly even when outnumbered two-to-one. As proved on Monday, the DUP as it presently stands in the assembly is unimpeachable and is only likely to see one of its ministers or MLAs censured when they have breached boundaries set by the party itself. Stormount’s recent dearth of legislation has been well documented and it’s believed this lack of determination and decisiveness has turned off many amount the electorate. The collective failure to demonstrate the effectiveness of the political system by making Nelson McCausland answerable to serious allegations can only lead to further disillusionment.
The store has since received dozens of orders after posting a picture of the ‘Gerry Kelly special edition’ model on Facebook. Manager Gareth Hutchinson said several politicians have contacted the shop to congratulate him on recreating the incident in miniaturised form. “It was literally put up on Facebook as a bit of a laugh and not expecting any response at all. But it has went through the roof. The response has been fantastic,” the 34-year-old said. Mr Hutchinson, from Belfast, spent most of Sunday creating the model after seeing news reports of the Tour of the North parade.
He painted a plastic Hornsby figure – the size of a five pence piece – to match North Belfast MLA Mr Kelly’s clothing. He then attached it to the front of a white-metal model of a Penman police vehicle, normally sold as a construction kit at around £20. Model Shop Belfast, based at Boucher Retail Park, sells a range of models of police vehicles used in the north. Mr Hutchinson posted a picture of the model with Mr Kelly on Facebook on Monday evening where it was veiwed by more than 40,000 internent useers. “It was a bit of a joke but last night there were lots of orders for the Land Rovers themselves and people were attaching emails asking for the figures,” he said. “A couple of politicians who will remain nameless have already dropped me messages saying they think it’s class.
After meeting Justice Minister David Ford to discuss the issue, Sinn Fein‘s Mr McCartney said: “Marian Price should be released immediately.
“On humanitarian terms alone she should be moved to an outside hospital, never mind the fact that her continued imprisonment damages public confidence in the justice system.”
Mr McCartney said he had pressed the justice minister for the hospital transfer.
Meanwhile, Pat Ramsey met with the Secretary of State, Owen Paterson, to talk about Ms Price’s case. “In what was, at times, a heated exchange, we sought to question the Secretary of State about the rationale for the continued detention of Marian Price,” he said.
MLAs are set to get a pay rise of 11%, almost £5,000, from April next year, an independent panel decided today.
An MLA’s basic pay is currently £43,101. MLAs who are committee chairs get another £11,331, while deputy chairs get an extra £5,667.
Junior ministers get £19,609 on top of the basic while ministers get £37,801. The first and deputy first ministers are entitled to £114,535 each.
The pay rise will be financed by a cut in office costs and expenses.
Sinn Féin have welcomed the publication of the report but says MLAs should not get a pay increase.
MLA Barry McElduff said: “I welcome the publication of the report. It was Sinn Féin who pressed for the establishment of this independent body. We did so to ensure that these matters are dealt with in an open and transparent manner and that MLA’s are not left in a position of deciding on their own salary.
“Throughout the consultation on these issues we maintained the position that there should be no increase to the salary arrangements for MLA’s. That remains our position.
“We believe it would be hypocritical for MLA’s to be contemplating an increase in the current economic climate when everyone else is expected to cope with the effects of the recession. It is our view that the current remuneration is adequate.
“We have only had an opportunity for a quick study of the report. We welcome the indication of the report that the implementation of its recommendations will result in £3m savings to the public purse between now and 2015.
“However we have misgivings about the proposed increase in MLA salaries set alongside a reduction in Office Cost Allowances. One reading of this suggests that constituency service monies will be used to finance an increase in MLA salaries. This would not be acceptable to Sinn Féin.
“This amounts to removing monies from front line constituency work and placing it in the pockets of MLA’s. Sinn Féin will certainly not contemplate such an outcome. Sinn Féin MLA’s take the average wage and contribute the rest of their salaries to the delivery and expansion of constituency services for those we represent.
“We will now consider what steps we have to take to maintain this situation and to ensure that constituency services are maintained at the current level.”