WITH fresh elections on the horizon just ten months after the last, local taxpayers will again be forced to fund a fresh wave of payoffs to departing MLAs.
This is further compounded by the fact that there is a reduction in seats from 108 to 90, meaning that 18 Assembly members will not be returned to Stormont on March 2nd. In Fermanagh and South Tyrone with just five seats up for grabs instead of six, one unlucky MLA will qualify for a payoff.
Four former MLAs for Fermanagh South Tyrone who did not return to the Assembly following last May’s election have already received payoffs of over £72,000. They were among 33 local Assembly members financially assisted to help them readjust to life outside of politics. The payments are made up mainly of resettlement allowances and winding-up expenditure. The current MLA salary is £49,000 a year.
Under Assembly guidelines, an MLA can claim a resettlement allowance if they don’t contest an election or fail to be re-elected following dissolution. This equates to one month’s salary for each full year of service, capped at a maximum of six months.
No additional offices they may have held, such as chairing an Assembly committee or acting as an Executive Minister, are taken into account.
Details of payoffs following the 2016 election were released by the Assembly last week. They reveal that the biggest payoffs locally went to former Sinn Fein MLAs Bronwyn McGahan and Phil Flanagan. Ms McGahan, who bowed out ahead of last year’s May 5th vote, was paid £29,369.29. Tempo-based Mr Flanagan received a pay-off of £25,522.58. The former small business owner, who was elected to Stormont in 2011 having previously served time as a councillor, was deselected by his former party colleagues to run last summer.
A further payout of £15,581.46 went to ex- Ulster Unionist MLA Alastair Patterson, who defected to the DUP last June. Mr Patterson lost his Assembly seat to his UUP running mate Rosemary Barton in May’s elections. He was only co-opted in January 2016 to replace Neil Somerville. Mr Somerville, who stood down after less than a year at Stormont due to stress, received a payout of £1,976.38.
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