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Welsh Assembly politicians look set for £10k pay rise

Photo: PA

Politicians in the Welsh Assembly look certain to net a £10,000 pay rise after the body which sets their wages gave its blessing to the increase.

Plans to boost the "basic" salary for backbench AMs from £54,390 to £64,000 were first revealed last year - and were met with little enthusiasm from unions as well as some politicians.

Not all Assembly Members are happy about the £10k pay rise. Credit: PA

However, the institution's remuneration board said it planned to stick to its guns on the proposals and recommended they should be implemented. It insisted the role of AMs had changed significantly - and argued further powers set to be devolved to Wales would see politicians take on even greater responsibilities.

Our draft package reflects the fact that after the 2016 election, the National Assembly will be a very different institution to what it has been previously. It will have law-making, tax-setting and borrowing powers like those of the UK and Scottish parliaments. This is a new package for a new parliament.

– Sandy Blair, Renumeration Board Chairman

If the pay plan is given the go-ahead, its 2017-17 package would cost an estimated £14.2 million - an £800,000 increase on this financial year.

As well as backbenchers potentially getting an 18.5% annual salary increase, others likely to benefit would be the Presiding Officer - whose total salary and pension package would climb from £119,300 to £122,400 - as well as increases for committee chairs and the leader of the largest opposition group.

Wales' First Minister Carwyn Jones would get a £5k pay rise. Credit: PA

However, they would also see reductions in the salary and pension packages for the First Minister and Welsh Government ministers.

The remuneration board insisted the Assembly needed to have a pay and pension scheme that would encourage the "best people" to put their names forward.

Mr Blair added: "There is never a good time to propose increasing politicians' salaries, but the board firmly believes that this is the right thing to do to support the future of Welsh democracy.

"This is vital in a small institution where all members need to play their part. Wales' legislators have one chance to get it right. There is no second chamber to correct any mistakes."

AMs' basic salaries are currently less than MPs - who could be set to take home at least £74,000 per year if a new pay deal is rubber-stamped.

The board's announcement that it would be sticking to the plans it announced last year came a week after the UK Government's announcement to hand more powers to Wales - including energy projects and allowing ministers in Cardiff Bay to raise cash from the money markets for major projects.

The public are being asked to respond to the pay packet plans. Credit: PA

However, political parties in the Assembly denounced the pay rise given - especially given the austere time facing many ordinary people.

A Welsh Liberal Democrat spokesman said, "These proposals are outrageous. Such a hike in salary for Assembly Members would be unthinkable considering that other public sector workers have seen their wage packets either frozen or rising only slightly in recent years.

"In our submission to the remuneration board, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have made it absolutely clear that we would not support these ill-thought out proposals."

A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman added: "When the independent panel first made this suggestion, we made it clear that the recommendations were excessive."

While Labour has not commented on the board's new announcement, its AM for Blaenau Gwent Alun Davies previously admitted to feeling "enormously embarrassed" by the proposals.

While the independent remuneration board has the final say on pay and expenses - it would be up to individual Assembly Members what they did with the extra cash.

Members of the public have until April 8 to respond to the board's recommendations.

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