Printer Friendly

PS3.5m pai AMs' fami members f public pur id to ly from rse; PRACTICE OF EMPLOYING RELATIVVES ON THE INCREASE.

Byline: WILL HAYWARD

THE shocking amount of money Welsh Assembly Members have paid their own family has been revealed.

An investigation has found that over the past decade around PS3.5m has been paid to the family members of AMs from the public purse.

The investigation also found the practice has become significantly more common in recent years.

A series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests and information in the public domain demonstrates that there are currently 17 AMs employing their own or other members' families.

Four of those AMs are paying their own husband/wife in the highest possible wage band.

In the past decade, the number of family members employed by AMs with public funds has risen 400%.

Until now, the Welsh Assembly has been less transparent than Westminster on the employment of family members.

| Neil Several million pounds has been spent in the last decade employing the family of AMs at the public's expense.

Four AMs employ two people from their own (or another member's family).

One party employs as many family members as it has AMs in the Assembly.

Four AMs are employing their husband or wife in the highest possible wage band from the public purse. This means their spouses are paid between PS33,542 and PS40,972 year.

They are Mark Reckless, leader of the Brexit Party in the Welsh Assembly, Brexit Party AM Caroline Jones, Labour AM Dawn Bowden and Ukip's Neil Hamilton.

Now in his third political party, Mr Reckless has employed his wife Catorina Reckless as a senior adviser for 37 hours (previously 29.6) a week, earning up to PS40,972 since December 2016.

Mrs Jones has employed her husband Alun Williams as a community caseworker earning up to PS40,972 for 37.5 hours a week since 2017.

Ms Bowden has employed her husband Martin Eaglestone as a senior advisor on 37 hours a week, earning up to PS40,972 since September 2017.

Mr Hamilton has employed his wife Christine Hamilton as a senior advisor (previously PA) for 37 hours a week, earning up to PS40,972 since May 2016.

The number of AMs choosing to pay their family from the public purse has increased several times over in the last decade.

In 2008 there was as few as five family members employed by AMs. By 2018 that had risen to 21.

Hamilton It is has proved impossible to get an exact figure of the number of family members employed by AMs in 2008 because in response to our FOI, the Welsh Assembly would only give us the number of staff in each band. This means that if a member of staff moved between bands over the year, they would be counted twice.

Also, if there were fewer than three people in a band, it would just say "less than three". This was "due to GDPR". This means that in 2008, the best we can say is that between five and seven family members were employed by AMs.

Of all the parties in the Assembly the party with the highest percentage of its AMs choosing to employ their fam-ily is the Brexit Party. Three of their four AMs employ family members all in the highest or second highest wage bands.

The Brexit Party's David Rowlands AM employs both his wife and daughter. Freemason Rowlands had previously left his daughter off the list of employees and subsequently blamed one of his aides for the oversight.

This means that the Brexit Party employs as many family members as it has AMs.

More than half of the Tory AMs in the Assembly employ family members.

Both the current leader Paul Davies and the previous leader Andrew RT Davies employ members of AMs' families.

Paul Davies employs two members of other members' families and RT Davies employs his wife Julia on a band one salary (up to PS35,182). She has been in the post since 2007.

The other Tory AMs who employ family members are Darren Millar, Mark Isherwood, Janet Finch-Saunders, Angela Burns and Mohammad Asghar.

One of Ukip's two AMs, Mr Hamilton, employs family members.

Labour AMs employ more family members than any other party with eight - however this is a much smaller figure relative to the total number of AMs the party has (29). They are Rebecca Evans, who employs two, Dawn Bowden, First Minister Mark Drakeford, John Griffiths, Julie James, David Rees, Jack Sargeant and Joyce Watson.

Plaid Cymru has a rule that no Plaid AM can employ a family member. This lost them an AM in 2009 when Mr Asghar defected from them to the Tories after he was told he could not employ his daughter as a press officer.

Due to the way the data was provided under FOI laws, it is impossible to put an exact figure on how much will have been spent over the last decade. However it is possible to give an estimate.

By calculating how many staff were in each band and what the middle value of that particular band was that year, we have come up with an estimate that roughly PS3.5m of public money has been given to the family members of AMs over the last 10 years.

It is important to note this does not account for some people being part time, double counting when people move bands, the difference between financial years as calender years.

The figure could be lower but it could also be considerably higher. For instance if everyone was paid near the top of their bands the figure is close to PS4m.

The idea is not to give an exact number but roughly contextualise the issue. In May, the Daily Post's sister newspaper the Western Mail approached all of the AMs employing family members and asked if they would tell how much they were choosing to pay them. Every single one declined.

Before the investigation, AMs did not even have to say what pay band their loved ones fell within.

This put the Assembly behind Westminster as family members employed by MPs do have their salary bands published.

However, since the story in May, the renumeration board has consulted and agreed to introduce further provisions which it believes "will improve the transparency and accountability of AM's employing family members".

Accordingly, the Commission will now publish the following: * The name, role, relationship and salary band of all family members * The average weekly overtime payments made to family members over the course of the financial year (from April 2019 with a view to commencing publication on an annual basis from 2020).

THE RULES What are the rules around AMs employing family members? In October an independent Remuneration Board recommended an end to AMs being allowed to employ their own family members citing "public trust in and perception of the reputation" of the National Assembly.

However, in February the body which decides on Assembly Members' pay and allowances decided to allow AMs to carry on employing their relatives until 2026.

Originally, the Remuneration Board decided the practice should end by 2021, but after taking account of representations made to it, chose to allow it to carry on until 2026.

In a letter to AMs, the board's chair Dame Dawn Primarolo said: "Following a consideration of the responses it has received to its consultation on the matter, the board has agreed to provide a longer 'transition period' for those family members currently employed by AMs."

The board has agreed that no funding will be made available for new family members who were employed by AMs from April 1, 2019.

This means AMs are not able to hire new family members now but those already in place can stay in post.
COPYRIGHT 2019 MGN Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Date:Jul 13, 2019
Words:1282
Previous Article:MASTERMINDS.
Next Article:Big cut to schools music service budget.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters