Wales politics

AMs' pay increase: Carwyn Jones 'surprised' by plan

Welsh assembly
Image caption A pay rise will recognise 'new responsibilities' and 'new expectations' on AMs, the board says

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said he "can't see how" Labour can support proposals for a £10,000 pay rise for Welsh assembly members.

An 18% increase from £54,000 to £64,000 after the 2016 election is being recommended by an independent panel.

Mr Jones said he was "as surprised as anyone" by the plans and he understood "how people will feel about this".

Trade union leaders from Unison and Unite have insisted the pay rise should be rejected.

The first minister and members of the cabinet would see their pay rise to £140,000 and £100,000 respectively.

Mr Jones said in a statement: "I recognise of course in these difficult times how people will feel about this and I can't see how we could support the proposals as they stand.

"However, we should not attack the remuneration board. They are independent of government and of the national assembly, and this process was established with cross-party support."

'Absolutely staggering'

The assembly's remuneration board said the pay rise reflected an increase in responsibility as more power was devolved to Wales.

But Dominic MacAskill, head of local government for Unison, said unless AMs could improve stringent pay deals for his members, they should refuse the increase and "lead the life of ordinary working people".

Andy Richards, secretary of Unite Wales, said the recommendations would be met by "incredulity".

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

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Media captionJeff Cuthbert says AMs are 'taken aback' by the recommended pay rise

Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Commons committee on Standards in Public Life, called the recommendation "an absolutely staggering increase, especially in these austere times".

He said: "Nurses are going out on strike because not all of them are even getting a 1% increase.

"It couldn't be a worse time to suggest such a massive increase."

However he added: "In a democratic system, you do have to have salary arrangements that ensure that anybody, no matter what their background or profession, feel that they can fulfil that public role without submitting their families to a mass of sacrifice in their standard of living."

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said she would only accept the rise if everyone in Wales was on the living wage.

Lone parents

North Wales Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach said the pay level was a "barrier" for people who could not afford to stand for the assembly.

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Media captionReaction to AMs pay rise proposal from the streets

She said she found it difficult when elected as a single parent living far from Cardiff.

"The choice was effectively boarding school or two nannies...the cost of the latter was prohibitive," she said of her child care arrangements.

"There are no policies to support lone parents who are elected... it is taken for granted that there will be a 'wife' at home who will do the caring for young children."

Liberal Democrat AM Aled Roberts said it would be "very, very difficult" for him "to look friends and neighbours in the eye" if he accepted the rise.

Jeff Cuthbert, who is standing down as Labour AM for Caerphilly in 2016, said AMs were "taken aback" by the recommended rise.

But he pointed out that they had taken a voluntary pay freeze over the last four years and would be taking on more responsibility.

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