As a native Northern Irishman living in Cardiff I’m always interested in what is happening back home. But before I start I realise that there are a number of terms by which this little country can be referred to, so considering political sensitivity I will try to include them: we have Ulster, Northern Ireland, the occupied 6 counties, the North of Ireland and goodness knows how many more.
Currently there is a mandatory coalition government in place lead by the DUP and Sinn Fein. Both these parties have representatives, representing the largely rural border region of West Tyrone, which at the last census had a population of 86,200 something that could be compared to a small town in England
Members of the Legislative Assembly are referred to as MLAs. In West Tyrone there are six of them, all getting paid nearly £43,000 per year, plus pensions and expenses. Based on the last census that is one representative getting nearly £43,000 for representing 14,367 people, which in most instances is less people than what would live in a Mainland county council ward. When you add on the office costs - which can be up to £72,000 - you can see those six MLAs can cost taxpayers over £650,000, plus expenses.
Items that have been claimed for on expenses include, stays in five star hotels, first class rail travel and so called 'fact finding' missions in Spain. On top of this there is the issue of 'double jobbing', where some MLAs hold positions as councillors. One is also an MP, earning over £100K for doing two jobs.
Taxpayers deserve a better deal than this. This is yet another example of our money being wasted, instead of being spent on front line services, such as keeping the roads salted and free of ice. The number of MLAs could easily be cut, and should be sooner rather than later.
In my next post on Northern Ireland, I will highlight more waste, this time regarding traffic signs.