Your MLAs’ expenses revealed

FROM desk nameplates and an umbrella stand to mobile phone bills and stationery, Upper Bann MLAs have racked up more than £300,000 in expenses between April and December last year.

DUP Assembly Member Stephen Moutray came top of the pile with a bill of £68,979.63, most of which went on rent for the Banbridge and Lurgan offices. Mr Moutray also claimed for more than £400 for four month’s worth of 02 mobile phone bills.

Each MLA is entitled to claim expenses for travel and office costs, which may include rent, rates and utilities.

Earlier this month an independent panel proposed that MLA’s wages should increase by almost £5,000 - an 11 per cent rise.

The rise, to come into effect in April next year, will be mitigated by a 3 per cent cut each year to office costs by 2014.

The current expenditure - the maximum of which to be claimed is £75,857.04 - can also extend to payment of admin support staff and secretary services

Mr Moutray claimed more than £43,000 for “support staff costs” during those eight months last year.

The area’s only SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly, who recently opened an office in Rathfriland Street in Banbridge, claimed more than £56,000 in expenses in that period.

She spent just over £800 on “constituency surgeries” in July and August last year, which were held in Gilford. Other expenditure went on stationery, office supplies and phone bills. Many of the claims covered refurbishment and decoration of her Banbridge town centre office including three heaters and a noticeboard.

DUP MLA Sydney Anderson’s claims - totalling £54,379 - accounted for stationery, printing supplies and mobile phone bills. But, aside from rates, the largest claims were made for the “self employed secretarial” skills of Wallace Thompson Consultancy Services - amounting to more than £2,000.

UUP MLA Samuel Gardiner claimed for water cooler sanitation costing £14.40 and window cleaning totalling £78 between July and September last year.

Mr Gardiner’s £50,512.88 bill was third lowest of the six MLAs.

His party colleague Jo-Anne Dobson, newly elected to the Assembly last year, made claims of £47,535.29, with almost £28,000 of that going on support staff costs.

Mrs Dobson’s other claims included an umbrella stand for £19.99, five desk nameplates for £100 in total, and window graphics - including a portrait of herself on the upper window of her office - costing £666.

Sinn Fein MLA John O’Dowd - who stood in as Deputy First Minister for a period of time last year - came in with the lowest claims for April to December last year. His £41,457.72 total included almost £700 on “other expenditure” which can cover childcare and temporary secretarial allowance.

Other claims included office supplies, phone bills and equipment leasing.

To view the list of your MLAs expenses in full visit the Northern Ireland Assembly website.