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21/09/2021

Stormont: East Derry and Mid Ulster MLAs claim £7,000 in travel expenses to non existent assembly

Stormont
By Eamon Sweeney The ten MLAS elected to represent Mid Ulster and East Derry at the currently defunct Northern Ireland Assembly have claimed just over £7,000 in travel expenses in the periods between the last election in March 2017 and June 2018. It was revealed last week that more than £275,000 has been paid to MLAs for travelling to Stormont although Northern Ireland has been without a functioing devolved governmennt since January 2017. The figures were revealed in the latest Quarterly Report on MLAs expenses which are routinely published on the Northern Ireland Assembly’s website. Overall, during the 2017-2018 financial year, half of the 90 MLAs claimed the full amount of travel expenses they are entitled to. MLAs are entitled to an allowance solely for travelling to Stormont, ranging from £600 within Belfast to £6,000 in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. In Mid Ulster the overall total for travel to Stormont between the constituency’s five MLAs was £5,734.95. All of the MLAs in Mid Ulster-Keith Buchanan (DUP); Linda Dillion (Sinn Fein); Patsy McGlone (SDLP); Ian Milne (Sinn Fein) and Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Fein-all claimed the same amount of £1,0749.99. In East Derry, the two DUP MLAs, George Robinson and Maurice Bradley claimed nothiung from the allowance as did Independent MLA Claire Sugden. Caoimhe Archibald (Sinn Fein) claimed £1,275 and John Dallat (SDLP) claimed £425. Between both constituencies, the total is £7,074.95. Under Stormont’s rules all of the MLAs are entitled to claim from the travel fund. Whilst there is no day-to-day assembly business they still wotlk from their offices at Parliament Buildings. In line with cuts to pay packets, due to effect next month, travel alloawnces are also going to be introduced. At the moment MLAs have to travel to Stormont 72 days in every year to be able to claim the maximum travel allowance. This is due to rise to 100 days which will make it harder to achieve the maximum claim because of the lack of political activity. Salaries will be refuced from £49,500 to £36,000 by January next year. According to the latest figures made available on the assembly website, a total of £7.7 million was paid in expenses between April 2017 and June this year. This figure did not include MLAs salaries.

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