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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Welsh Assembly remuneration board to change rules to accommodate Neil Hamilton

Assembly Member expenses are complex and it is right that an independent remuneration board is in place to oversee them and to ensure that everything is above board. Wales in fact led the way in taking responsibility for their pay and expenses away from Assembly Members, but that does not mean that the remuneration board always gets it right.

The £10,000 a year pay rise for AMs they brought in from May this year clearly misjudged the public mood and did nothing to assist public trust in politicians. Now they are on the verge of another public relations boob with changes to support for the accommodation needs of AMs when they are in Cardiff Bay.

Currently, residential accommodation expenditure is based on three ‘zones’:

- Outer area – the area within the boundaries of Mid and West Wales and North Wales electoral regions;
- Intermediate area – the constituencies of Gower, Neath, Swansea East and Swansea West; and
- Inner area – with the exception of those constituencies located in the intermediate area, the area within the boundaries of the South Wales West, Central and East electoral regions.

The available reimbursement for Members whose main home is in the outer area falls into four categories, as follows. In all cases the total reimbursement is capped at £8,820 per annum:

- Option A - renting a furnished property in Cardiff;
- Option B – reimbursement of expenses relating to a property in Cardiff used by a Member (e.g. if a member owns a second home in Cardiff);
- Option C – the cost of overnight stays in Cardiff; and
- Option D – the cost of reimbursement of rent or mortgage payments as permitted under the rules which applied in 2011. This only applies to members elected before 2011 and have not had a gap in service.

Members whose main home is in the ‘intermediate area’ may claim for overnight stays in Cardiff up to a maximum cost per annum of £3,420. Those whose main home is in the ‘inner area’ may claim for overnight stays in exceptional circumstances, but have no other entitlement to reimbursement of residential accommodation expenses.

Up until now there has been no provision for AMs whose main home is outside Wales. The election of Neil Hamilton has changed all that. His main home, pictured above, is a very nice mansion in Wiltshire. The remuneration board is therefore proposing that his circumstances are accommodated.

They are proposing to amend the Determination so that Members whose main home is outside Wales are eligible for residential accommodation expenditure. They propose to do this by extending the Outer Area to the whole of the UK.

There are some who would argue that living in Wales should be an overriding qualification to stand for the Assembly. I would agree with that view. If Neil Hamilton wishes to represent Mid and West Wales then he should establish his main home on this side of Offa's Dyke. The fact that he does not do so is an insult to his electors. The remuneration board should not humour this conceit.
This is a disgrace, cow-towing to UKIP ,out of fear?' He is loaded. HE CAN SELL OR RENT OUT HIS MANSION AND LIVE IN wALES
I wonder if a Westminster MP could claim their normal home is overseas?
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