Friday, 7 March 2008

Democracy improves by 8.3%

No doubt blogs in Wales will be shrieking about the proposals by the Assembly Commission to give AMs a pay rise well above inflation. The standard criticisms will be aired: 'public service workers are getting a much smaller increase' and 'why are AMs getting so much when they have so little authority?'

It is worth stopping to listen to Dafydd Elis-Thomas, the Presiding Officer of the Assembly. Defending the pay rise proposals he said: "This is the cost of Welsh democracy. We need informed, businesslike, democratic scrutiny." While it is true that we need informed, businesslike and democratic scrutiny, how will this be achieved by stuffing the mouths of AMs with more gold?

To have informed and businesslike scrutiny we do need to attract decent people to the Senedd with a decent wage. If democratic and informed scrutiny is required then why not spend the money recruiting a few extra AMs to increase capacity? Starting to sound a bit familiar? Well, yes, it's exactly what the Richard Commission recommended years ago.

New Labour has never been particularly warm to the concept of devolution. Tony Blair didn't go along with the Richard Commission's findings and it is unlikely Gordon Brown will agree. Welsh MPs in Westminster weren't particularly happy with proposals to increase the number of AMs either. Perhaps Welsh MPs are more concerned about their jobs than the good of Welsh democracy, which is a running theme at the moment...

Update 16:07: Six Plaid AMs to refuse pay rise


John 7 March 2008 at 16:54  

I was only saying to my wife yesterday "how greedy it seemed that the German unions were striking for an 8% rise as they felt hard done by... it wouldn't happen here".

Ah, well, then again

JJ 7 March 2008 at 16:58  

I have always thought that preferential treatment was for the less capable.

This seems to confirm my belief.

After all, preferential treatment is a disguised form of cheating.

Anonymous 7 March 2008 at 17:15  

What's all the fuss in Wales? You wanted AMs, you got AMs and now you get to pay for them. In this devolved democracy you elected this fine body and they are deciding that they are worth it - surprise, surprise.

Andrew Strong 7 March 2008 at 17:17  

And now we see the real reason for this week's annoncement of free parking in NHS car parks... as a smokescreen for this outrageous pay rise.

Andrew Strong 7 March 2008 at 17:20  

I'm a headteacher in Powys - in my school's last inspection report it was noted that my workload was considerable... it has increased significantly since then. Has my pay? Of course not. Just over two per cent, last year. Headteaching vacancies attract few applicants, sometimes none; yet I see no shortage of people who want to be an AM. Here is a government who seeks not to improve the quality of education, just their own paypackets.

bloody annoyed 7 March 2008 at 17:23  

Atleast this extra pay won't come out of the devolved budget at the moment, but it does mean that more money will be devolved to the Assembly from Westminster.

Mark 7 March 2008 at 18:10  

Once again the Cardiff Bay Muppets show us how much out of touch with reality they are. Most of these cloth heads are former councillors who jumped on the band wagon before they became redundant in their own towns and cities.

Here's what you pay for in Wales:
Inferior Health service.
Open door policy for immigrants.
Third class jobs.
Incompetent Ministers - Jane Hutt was sacked by Blair but still holds office in Cardiff.
Bilingual policy costing council,utility & service companies millions.

Steve 7 March 2008 at 18:13  

It is hypocrisy! The Assembly ask Public Services to reduce costs and become more efficient and they judge them more and more by using metrics and targets. Where are the targets and metrics for the Assembly and who is judging them?

G Davies 7 March 2008 at 18:22  

They were already grossly overpaid. How do they justify over 80% of a Westminster MP's salary (even assuming they're worth their money!) when they have far fewer areas of responsibility and for a population less than 10% that of England's.

Even full legislative powers couldn't extend to foreign policy and defence. Is it really worth all this gross expense of money for an extra layer of governance / administration for a population of little more than a good sized city?

Anonymous 7 March 2008 at 18:28  

How many of them would command this in the real world? Not many.

Southpaw Grammar 7 March 2008 at 19:19  

Miss W,

I have to disagree with you on this...

Firstly, AMs are paid a very decent wage, if 8.3% is the difference between someone deciding to leave a well paid job to 'downsize' to £50,000 a year then i dont want them representing me. Essentially you are saying that it must be done so we can attract rich people to become our AMs if you really consider the 'we need to attract' argument.

You have also made no mention of the fact that public service should be the biggest motivating factor in wanting to represent people, not a fat wage packet.

And another thing, this will do nothing to attract new people to the job because all the safe seats are filled by people with no intention of leaving an even bigger salary now, to me it entrenches some of lacklustre AMs we already have.

Miss Wagstaff 7 March 2008 at 19:50  

Southpaw Grammar,

Not my post, but I'm sure that Dotcommentator will give a response to those that have commented so far. As for me, I'm about to go on a night out in London and haven't even touched my hair yet, so will leave it for another day (the commenting, not the hair) :)

Miss Wagstaff 7 March 2008 at 20:02  

A quickie - Six Plaid AMs refusing a pay rise is a bit of a non-starter. Will it make any difference? All AMs will get their rise if it's agreed, but they could set up a direct debit with a local project close to their heart...

Dotcommentator 7 March 2008 at 20:05  


Essentially...I'm most definitely not saying there should be an increase. I suggested the wage they get now is enough and that an increase would not strengthen democracy, as Dafydd E-T claimed. If we want to spend money strengthening democratic processes I suggested the extra money should go on more AMs.

About the public service aspect, we might say with a dreamy-eyed expression that the warm feeling of public service is enough but we all know it isn't really. There are better wages to be had around middle age outside politics and those jobs are without all the extra hassle as well.

If people don't think certain AMs are good enough then they really should have voted for someone better.

Anonymous 7 March 2008 at 21:11  

If you don't like this pay rise when the next election comes round. It's about time we all woke up and used our vote and get rid of the mediocre AMs. Stop voting like sheep and we may get some decent candidates in the future.

Hywel 7 March 2008 at 21:21  

Perhaps we should all email our AMs and let them know exactly what the general public thinks when it comes to this issue.

Steve O 7 March 2008 at 21:47  

Do we wish to have the most talented people running Wales? If yes, then surely we need to pay an acceptable salary. Tempting top-quality decision makers away from legal, health, academic, scientific, business, educational, civic, managerial or other professional sectors to perform as elected representatives - and bear the brunt of our sniping - means that salaries must also be competitive. Perhaps the people of Wales would rather pay peanuts and be goverened by monkeys.

Anonymous 7 March 2008 at 21:48  

As an ordinary civil servant all I get is 2%

Anonymous 7 March 2008 at 21:59  

Looks like half of Plaid's Assembly group don't know what's going on.

If their commissioner was in the room when this decision was made why are more than half of them accepting the cash?

Typical hypocrisy from a moribund party trying to show it’s still relevant to Wales.

Kate 8 March 2008 at 08:41  

The increase should follow the Welsh average, if the AMs want to work in Wales then they need to accept Welsh wages not London wages

Senedd Whip 8 March 2008 at 11:01  

The AMs may require a pay increase for their increased workload (assuming that their workload was significant in the first place). What beggars belief is the timing and shows no feeling for the rest of the workforce in Wales, particularly when the public sector is under pay restraints.

In the circumstances it's much better if the increase came in 2011 after the next election and in the meantime the increase could match that of the public sector.

Would be even more interesting if performance led pay was introduced (tongue in cheek).

Hywel Dda 9 March 2008 at 07:13  

The origins of this problem can be found in the huge amount of money earned by certain individuals in te private sector. I know one individual in Wales who last year earned a six figure sum in bonuses alone. Politicians meet these individuals and if they live in a flat in the Bay live alongside them.Last year whilst with a client I saw William Graham in Woods which isn't the cheapest restaurant in the Bay. As a result of all this public consumption some politicians actually believe that if they hadn't been elected they would be making a fortune. election has denid them the lifestyle they deserve. This might be the case for a minority of Westminster MPs with a business or legal background but is it the case with our blessed AMs. it would be interesting if someone could do a post regadring their previous occupations and their future prospects if they lost their seats.Is Carl Sargeant,for example, who doesn't seem to be the most intelligent creature on the planet really worth salary of over £60k for being the whip to a tiny number of AMs. What does he actually do? He must feel like someone who has won the lottery scratch card which gives you a guaranteed income for life. Where would Andrew Davies be without the Assembly? He left university without a proper degree and as far as I can see his only proper job has been as a FE lecturer in a social care department.Oh of course he was briefly employed by Ford as a lecturer not on the business side and by his fellow AM Leighton Andrews. Others have never been employed by anyone having only recently left university. What would Nerys Evans and Bethan Jenkins be doing without the Assembly? Jenkins must be really glad that the support of just 14 Plaid members will give her an income of at least £200k over the next four years. Not many other recent graduates can aspire to this sort of wealth.As for carwyn jones one thing most members of the Welsh legal circuit are agreed on is that he would never have made it as a barrister. Lacks the work ethic it seems.

Anonymous 9 March 2008 at 07:47  

Nice to see that Alun Davies has joined in the criticism of Plaid's 6 not to accept the money. Considering that no one elected him ana that he is only an AM because Labour did badly in the constutency section a period of silence on his part would be appreciated by most sane people in Wales. He is another one who has never had a proper job since leaving university. If ever one human being sums up what is wrong with devolution it is little Alun. He symbolises a political class that is completely out of touch with the people of Wales.He doesn't ven seem to realise the angeramongst labour's grassroots at thsi absurd decision. If it wasn't for the Assembly he would be another one who would be selling the Big Issue.

ardibeltza 9 March 2008 at 08:37  

How do they justify over 80% of a Westminster MP's salary (even assuming they're worth their money!) when they have far fewer areas of responsibility and for a population less than 10% that of England's.

D'oh! Who'd have thought Homer Simpson writes comments on this blog... They have far *more* areas of responsibility (housing, health, education, social care to name some of the more important) than the average backbench MP.

Caris 9 March 2008 at 10:14  

Pay has to be earned, entrance into a profession usually has some bench marks -qualifications,experience etc.
This bunch have for the most part none of these.
I agree that kids leaving Uni and earning 50K is just not on , neither are numpties who would be hard pressed to earn £15K in the real world.I have no problem paying for quality -enough said

Jeremy Jacobs 9 March 2008 at 18:36  

I beg to differ. Since joining the EEC in 1972, democracy in the UK is on the wain.

Luther 17 March 2008 at 23:44  

8.3% is bad enough, but what if the rise more like 10.2%? Unless I'm mistaken in my maths, that's the case:

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