There’s a lot of debate at the moment about whether Tynwald members (MHK’s and MLC’s) should be taking a £4,000 pay cut. I can see the argument here, slow wage growth in the private sector, cutbacks all around, big changes to civil service pensions – maybe it’s time our elected leaders actually started leading by example.
The thing is, all these people calling for this pay cut (and all those fighting against it) have completely missed a real opportunity to make Tynwald Members pay fairer for everyone.
At the moment each Tynwald Member gets a basic wage of £39,546.50. Now when they are appointed as a departmental member they get a 30% uplift (40% in treasury) bringing their pay to a minimum of £51,410.45. Some get a bit extra (another 10%) for some statutory roles, such as Chairman of the OFT (now there’s real value for money….).
Ministers, the Chief Minister, the Speaker of the House and the President all get paid more than this with their uplifts ranging from 50% to 80% extra.
Oh and they all get an annual expenses allowance of £6,707.42.
So there’s a real financial incentive to be part of government. But do we really think backbenchers and members of the scrutiny committees who are challenging government are less valuable to our democracy than Departmental Members who are paid an increase to keep them toeing the government line?
Now here’s the kicker
Nearly all Members of Tynwald are departmental Members or Ministers (including the President and Speaker – 28 out of 33) and only four aren’t getting any uplift at all.
This means the real “basic” wage is £58,117.87 (basic + departmental uplift + expenses allowance). But only if they stay on the government’s side.If you don’t, you get a pay cut.
So here’s my suggestion on how to reform the way we pay our Tynwald Members.
1) Get rid of the expenses allowance
Tynwald Members should claim for each expense individually (With a maximum cap in any parliamentary year), like everyone else would have to, and these expenses should be published for the public to see what they are spending taxpayers money on. This would restrict it to genuine parliamentary expenses.
2) Get rid of all departmental uplifts and the uplifts for the Speaker and the President.
Level the playing field so Tynwald Members can disagree with government without risking losing out financially. This would let our Tynwald Members be truly independent.
3) Members of the Scrutiny Committees should have the same uplifts as Ministers, which should be reduced down from the current 50%.
This should encourage Tynwald Members to get onto the committees and take these roles seriously – it would mean better scrutiny of Government as MHK’s would be able to stay completely out of Government and focus on holding them to account.
Reducing the uplift means it’s not such a big cut if someone has to resign on a point of principle – less incentive to “toe the line”.
4) Pay all Tynwald Members a basic wage of £55,000 a year
This would be a drop in pay of £3,117.87 and is a more than realistic salary. It’s enough not to put off good calibre candidates, and it’s also Tynwald Members leading by example, taking a pay cut like so many others.
5) Tynwald Members pay should then increase each year by the same amount as the civil service pay rises.
This puts them in the same boat as everyone in the civil service.