Wales politics

Welsh assembly members set for £10,000 pay rise

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Media captionA pay rise will recognise 'new responsibilities' and 'new expectations' on AMs, the board says

Members of the Welsh assembly could get a £10,000 pay rise after the 2016 election, the body which sets their salaries has said.

The increase would be 18% more than their current basic pay of around £54,000.

First Minister Carwyn Jones and members of his cabinet would see their pay rise to £140,000 and £100,000 respectively.

Sandy Blair, chair of the remuneration board, said the increase would reflect the responsibility of the job.

"With new responsibilities come new expectations on AMs," he said.

"We are proposing a salary for AMs which reflects the weight of responsibility they carry."

''We hope that the people of Wales will share our view of the standing of our National Assembly, the quality of individual they should expect to seek election and the level of performance they should demand of them."

In December 2013 plans to increase the pay of MPs by 11% to £74,000 were criticised by politicians across Westminster, including leaders of the three main UK parties, as being inappropriate at a time of public sector pay curbs.

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Analysis by Nick Servini, BBC Wales political editor

Nick Servini

There's never a good time for politicians to respond to an independent recommendation for a significant pay rise but now is particularly difficult.

Last week the Welsh government struck its first ever Wales-only deal for health workers. From April, they'll get a 1% increase.

There's also a big push going into reorganising councils with the specific intention of reducing the overall cost of local politics to the taxpayer.

One party advisor told me the general climate of public sector pay freezes will weigh heavily on the minds of AMs when they gather for their party group meetings to put together a response in the morning.

'Highest calibre'

Mr Blair said the increase in base salaries for AMs would cost around £580,000 in 2016-17, but half of the total would be recovered through savings in the pension scheme and cuts to the additional salaries paid to ministers and other office holders.

As a result, First Minister Carwyn Jones and members of his cabinet will see their pay rise by around £4,000, while opposition group leaders will get an increase of more than £10,000.

The recommendations now go to public consultation with a finalised package to be published in May 2015, a year before the 2016 assembly election.

"Clearly, people in Wales are facing difficult economic circumstances and there is great pressure on public spending," Mr Blair added.

"But that is precisely why Wales needs to attract the highest calibre people to be members of the National Assembly.

''Wales needs good governance and good government. That requires a strong, effective National Assembly.

"For it to be so, the individual members of the assembly must be exceptional in their motivation and abilities and remunerated accordingly."

'Out of step'

The political parties have given a cautious reaction to the proposals.

A Labour source said the matter "will need to be discussed by the group in the assembly".

A Welsh Conservative spokesman said the party remained "committed to a reduction in the cost of Welsh politics" and hoped "as many people as possible have their say" in the consultation.

Plaid Cymru said the proposals "seem out of step with public sector pay" but would discuss them with the other parties.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said they would respond to the proposals "in due course", but added that they had argued that AMs' pay should be frozen for the duration of the current assembly, "at a time when budgets have been squeezed".

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