The pub test

The big question now is whether the Independent Remuneration Board will listen to any of the concerns expressed so far about the proposed 18% pay rise for assembly members after 2016.

The clue is in the title. It's an independent body so it is not obliged to listen to the concerns before it makes its final recommendation next year.

The same process is happening at Westminster where the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has recommended an 11% rise to take the basic salary of an MP to £74,000.

The party leaders at Westminster have criticised the award but IPSA doesn't appear to be listening, and the same thing could happen in Cardiff.

The first minister, speaking in his capacity as leader of the Labour group at the assembly, said he couldn't see how his party's AMs could support the proposals.

His comments came after the criticism had been gradually ramping up.

The two biggest unions, Unite and Unison, had urged AMs to reject the offer.


Unite said its members would be incredulous while Unison called on AMs to lead the life of ordinary working people.

At the assembly, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems came out of the blocks quickly.

The Plaid leader Leanne Wood said she'd only accept the award if everyone in Wales was paid the living wage of £7.85 an hour, while Eluned Parrott for the Lib Dems dismissed a central argument of the remuneration board, that the rise reflects extra responsibilities, by saying it was a big increase for a small amount of extra work.

The Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies danced around the issue during sustained questioning from journalists for 20 minutes in a briefing on Tuesday, before eventually saying that he was in the business of reducing the cost of politics.

His Tory colleague Nick Ramsay, sitting next to him, struck a different tone saying he could never justify it in the Ship Inn in Raglan, his local pub.

It wasn't his local boozer but I did take Nick Ramsay to a watering hole in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday night to chat about the rise with customers for an item on Wales Today.

Swap jobs challenge

Among the people we spoke to was a group of nurses in line for a one per cent increase next year who immediately challenged him to swap jobs.

It did flash across my mind that a job swap between Nick Ramsay and a nurse would make a great feature for Wales Today, but then I thought the Health Minister Mark Drakeford has got enough problems in the NHS as it is without elected politicians going anywhere near patients.

You'd have to be from Mars not to see how this is going down with voters.

One AM said to me that it makes a mockery of the four year pay freeze they've just gone through, and one per cent rise next year, when it's followed up by an immediate 18% increase.

There is a view among many that the rise has to be staggered. To be fair to the AMs, they are in a difficult position.

The independent body was set up after the MPs expenses scandal and is designed to take the entire process out of the hands of the politicians, so it seems odd that they're now trying to influence it.

But I'm sure the AMs would point out that it's them, and not members of the remuneration board, who have to face voters every day.

In terms of the overall cost to the public purse, much of the rise is being offset by reductions in pension benefits. It's worth saying that the overall packages for government ministers would come down.

Another issue to take into account is the fact that the rises at Westminster mean that if nothing happens in Cardiff Bay there would be a £20,000 a year gap in the basic salaries between the two parliaments, which would be odd at a time when more powers are being devolved.