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Lib Dem budget vote bid to scrap AM pay rise

The Lib Dems want to halt a planned pay rise for Assembly Members Photo:

The Welsh Liberal Democrats say they'll try to halt a planned £10,000 pay rise for Assembly Members by voting against the budget for running the Assembly.

AMs will be asked tomorrow to approve spending plans by the Assembly Commission which is in charge of services and staff at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

The Commission is proposing a budget of £52m for 2016-17 - an increase of £1.1m but a real terms cut when inflation is taken into consideration.

The budget includes £700,000 to cover the pay rise recommended by an independent Remuneration Board.

It's unusual for AMs to vote down the Commission's budget but the Lib Dems say it's the only way of stopping the controversial salary increase.

But the other three parties have rejected the Lib Dem call to join forces in voting against the budget.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said:

A £10,000 pay increase is completely unacceptable and the Welsh Liberal Democrats will vote against these plans.

It’s outrageous that, at time when other public sector workers have had their salaries either frozen or rise only slightly, politicians could be getting a salary increase of 18%. I wouldn’t be able to look my constituents in the eye knowing that I didn’t properly fight against these plans.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have been consistent in our opposition to any such pay rise. Politicians from other parties have also spoken out on the issue. With that in mind, I call on those parties to join us and vote this plan down.

By voting it down, we would be sending a powerful message to the new Remuneration Board to think again on these proposals. The proposed hike in salary doesn’t start until after the Assembly elections, it is not too late for these proposals to be dumped. No doubt we will hear numerous excuses about why we have to vote for this budget and give ourselves a huge pay hike – that simply doesn’t wash. We can stop this unfair and unnecessary pay rise and that is what the Welsh Liberal Democrats intend to do.

– Kirsty Williams AM, Welsh Liberal Democrat leader

Kirsty Williams explained to me why she was making her call and why she believed it wouldn't undermine the independence of the Independent Remuneration Board.

The Lib Dems have failed to persuade the other parties to join them in voting against the Assembly Commission budget despite their own widespread public criticism of the proposed pay rise.

A spokesperson for Labour said to do so would be to create uncertainty for staff who work for the assembly 'for the sake of a headline.'

We will be voting in favour of the Assembly Commission budget tomorrow. Along with the other parties in the Assembly we objected to the AM pay recommendations of the independent Remuneration Board, and called for a rethink. That was the proper time and place to register concerns and objections. Tomorrow’s vote is not just about AMs, it is about all the staff who work for the Assembly and to plunge them into uncertainty for the sake of a headline seems wrong and rash.

– Welsh Labour group spokespersson

'Shameless politics'

The Welsh Conservatives have also said they won't vote against the Assembly Commission budget and have criticised the Lib Dems for 'this desperate pursuit of a headline.'

A spokesperson for the party said:

Whatever you think of the Remuneration Board’s proposals to increase AM pay, voting down the budget wouldn’t stop a pay rise from happening.

This is shameless politics.

The Remuneration Board is an independent body and the Assembly has a legal obligation to pass its determination.

Ultimately, this desperate pursuit of a headline by the Lib Dems won’t hurt politicians. In fact, the only people who would lose out are the ordinary hardworking people in and around the assembly whose jobs could be threatened if the budget is voted down.

– Welsh Conservative spokesperson

Plaid Cymru has indicated that it too won't support the Lib Dem bid to vote down the overall Commission budget despite criticism of the pay rise from Plaid politicians. A party spokesperson said:

Changes to Assembly Member salaries are decided by an independent body in an independent process, and therefore the Commission should be able to implement the recommendations of that body. Individual Assembly Members will make their own decisions on whether to accept the pay rise.

– Plaid Cymru spokesperson

'No effect'

According to an Assembly Commission source, voting down the budget would in reality have no effect on the salaries paid to AMs and would create significant problems for funding services, staff and the extra expense incurred in an election year.

Concerns have also been voiced that it would also undermine the principle of independence that has been considered essential to allow the Independent Remuneration Board to act without interference from politicians.