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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Survey of new AMs raises some questions

The BBC report on a survey of new Welsh Assembly Members by the Hansard Society has found that two of them took a £30,000 pay cut when they were elected. Cue much speculation on who these altuistic politicians may be.

They say that surveys and anonymous interviews by the Hansard Society lift the lid on what life is like in the first year of being an AM:

New members felt the Welsh government was not accountable enough and that their work-life balance suffered after being elected.

The report says many feel as though there are not enough hours in the day.

Twenty-three new AMs were elected at the last election in 2011 out of the total of 60. Of those, 12 took part in a survey in July that year and seven were surveyed the following April. Eleven took part in interviews.

Half of the survey respondents said AMs' pay of £53,852 was bigger than their previous salary, while the other half had a cut or saw no change.

Getting elected meant a salary increase of at least £30,000 for two AMs. Another two saw a salary decrease of £30,000 a year or more.

A year into the job, AMs were working an average 57 hours a week, plus travel.

When they first arrived in Cardiff Bay, new AMs - who have no formal job description - said championing their constituents was their top priority.

A year later they said holding the government to account had become the number one priority.

The article goes on to say that pressure on time was a common issue. Whilst, unlike MPs in Westminster, attendance in the chamber and at committees is almost compulsory:

It points out that "with Labour forming a minority government, every vote counts".

A "regimented timetable" makes it difficult for AMs to do other things, while gaps in their schedules are "heavily targeted by lobbyists looking for meetings with AMs".

During their first year, AMs' satisfaction with their work-life balance deteriorated.

One said their family was spending "an absolute fortune on childcare" and relying on favours.

Another said: "You can't go out and have a few beers and just be one of the boys, rugby boys, as perhaps one has been in the past."

However new AMs praised the assembly's family-friendly working hours and the fact recess coincides with school holidays.

The overall verdict though is that "Despite the long hours, the travel, the challenges and frustrations, the new AMs are still delighted to have been elected and be doing the job."

And so say all of us.
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