‘Out-of-work’ MLAs ‘can’t justify travel expenses’

FERMANAGH’S MLAs must show exactly what they are doing to help the county and exactly what value local people are getting for the money they are paying them.
That’s the view of former Stormont official and local debt advisor Kevin Lawrenson, who said people had been outraged by news the five Fermanagh South Tyrone MLAs continued to claim full expenses, including tens of thousands for travel to an Assembly in Belfast that hasn’t sat in years.
As reported recently in the Herald, Arlene Foster, Sean Lynch, Rosemary Barton, Jemma Dolan and Colm Gildernew claimed over £300,000 between them in expenses last year, on top of their wages. Of those five, two have never sat a full day in the Assembly, Jemma Dolan and Colm Gildernew.
In addition, Mr Gildernew was not elected to the Assembly, but was co-opted to the seat when his sister Michelle was elected an MP.
Mr Lawrenson said the fact two of our five have no experience as sitting MLAs, was particularly frustrating for local people.
He also questioned the explanations given for why Fermanagh MLAs were travelling to Belfast.
“I worked up at Stormont for five-and-a-half years and I know what happens and what doesn’t, and it still hasn’t changed.
“It’s a case of they do go up to show their face,” he said, adding the committee meetings MLAs were attending had no power at the minute without ministers to take decisions.
Mr Lawrenson said it wasn’t a case that our MLAs shouldn’t be paid or claim expenses, but said people would feel different if they could see our MLAs were doing something “constructive.”
“You can’t blame them for everything, but you have to look at it logically. The fact is, more people are using food banks, St Vincent De Paul and other charitable organisations,” said the former debt advisor.
“People need to start asking these politicians, what actually do you do, and what committees are you sitting on. When you sit on these committees, what benefit does it bring to Fermanagh? It’s about value for money.”

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