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Members Expenditure 2020 to 2021

April 2020 to March 2021

The expenses for 2020 to 2021 are available here in PDF:

An html version will be made available as soon as possible.


 

Notes for 2020 to 2021 Expenses

Expenses

Members’ expenses continue to be provided for under the legislative framework of the Assembly Members (Salaries and Expenses) Determination (Northern Ireland) 2016 (as amended), as determined by the Independent Financial Review Panel (the Panel) in March 2016. During 2019-20 a number of other provisions were also temporarily in place, however the provisions of the 2016 Determination were fully restored following the appointment of an Executive on 11 January 2020.

The tenure of the first Panel finished in July 2016 and as a consequence of the Commission’s desire to consider a reform of the Panel and the political situation between March 2017 and January 2020, a new Panel has not been appointed. Following the appointment of the new Assembly Commission in February 2020, work to reform the Panel has re-commenced. As part of this work, a motion was brought to the Assembly on 30 June 2020 to confer powers on the Assembly Commission to determine allowances payable to Members.

Using these new powers the Assembly Commission published the Assembly Members (Salaries and Expenses) (Amendment) Determination (Northern Ireland) 2020 on 27 August 2020. This Determination was brought forward to ensure that Members can legitimately purchase basic items to help deliver services to constituents and to ensure that the terms and conditions of employment for their support staff are fair and reasonable; in line with those offered within the context of the wider public sector. Amending a number of key provisions within the 2016 Determination the changes were effective from 1 April 2020. However, amendments to paragraph 14, relating to the recovery of rent and rates and the display of signage, were backdated to May 2016.

For administrative purposes and to enable new reporting structures to become embedded, the expenditure already processed for April – September has not been re-analysed or re-classified to reflect the new categories of expenditure permitted under the 2016 Determination (as amended).

The key criteria that must be met in order to recover expenditure remain unchanged. The recovery of expenses can only be sought for costs that are actually incurred by Members in connection with exercising their functions as a Member and the payment of expenses to a connected person continues to be prohibited. Members do not have an automatic entitlement to expenses or allowances by virtue of their membership of the Assembly and a number of admissibility tests must be fulfilled.

The original 2016 Determination limited the recovery of expenses to one constituency office; however, this limitation was removed from 1 April 2020. The restriction on Members recovering an expense in respect of a payment to a person resident or registered at a place outside the European Union was also removed.

As noted above, the revisions to paragraph 14, in relation to signage were backdated to May 2016. Applying these amendments has meant that a number of retrospective adjustments are required to the recovery of rent and rates which had either been withheld or not processed. These amendments are reported in this financial year. These are shown in the reports as amendments and include adjustments for some former Members.

1 Constituency Office Expenses (COE) 2020 – 2021

As its name suggests, COE is used by Members to provide a service to constituents through the running of a constituency office. Items that can be claimed from COE include office rent and rates, office utilities (including heat, light and telephones), office cleaning, office equipment, office furniture and office consumables office signage and insurance. The exclusion for costs associated with photocopiers, fax machines cameras, televisions, radios and computer equipment, was removed under the amended 2016 Determination. COE cannot be claimed without valid proof of the actual expenses incurred.

COE consists of Constituency Office Operating Expenses (COOE), Rent and Rates and Establishment Expenses.

From 1 April 2020 the maximum amount of COE available is £7,000 annum for COOE (which now includes mobile phones), £8,500 per annum (pro rata) for rent and £4,000 per mandate for Constituency Office Establishment Expenses (which also includes costs of refurbishing or maintaining an existing office). The amount available is reduced for Members who only hold office for part of the year. Under the provisions of the amended Determination Rates may now be recovered in full. However, where a lease agreement is entered into and the rental payments for a year are in excess of the maximum amount of rent allowable, a limit is applied.

The tax date of an invoice determines which financial year the cost may be claimed in, irrespective of period covered by the invoice.

In the detailed analysis of COE, it should be noted that where a Member’s name is given as the “Supplier” the payment was made as a reimbursement to the Member for admissible expenditure incurred. If a Member shares an office with another Member all costs must be split equally and each Member may only recover costs associated with carrying out his/her own functions as a Member. For administrative purposes however, where Members share offices with another Member, one Member may pay the whole invoice and receive the reimbursement and the cost will be apportioned when the claim is processed, therefore recording the name of one Member as a supplier in the record of another Member.

Members are permitted to use COE to purchase pre-paid envelopes, stationery, envelopes, toners, general office supplies, small office equipment etc. for use in their constituency offices and where these items have been purchased from the central Assembly Office Resources department the supplier will be “NI Assembly”.

Up to 27 August 2020, Sundry Constituency Office Operating Expenses of up to £100 per month could be claimed. This provision was removed from that date. Under the original 2016 Determination Members were not required to maintain records of these payments. Receipts however, could be provided, in which case reimbursement was made directly to the Member or to a member of support staff, where the support staff had incurred the expenditure on behalf of the Member. In the absence of receipts, the reimbursement was processed through payroll and the usual deductions for tax and national insurance were made. Payments made through payroll are be recorded as ‘Taxable Sundry Expenses’. In general, sundry expenses were those assorted, miscellaneous, small, varied or infrequent operating costs incurred in running an office. In all cases, the Member had to sign a declaration stating that the expenditure was incurred in accordance with the requirements of the Determination.

2Other Expenses

Other Expenses.

This includes recall expenditure and disability allowance. 

Winding Up Expenditure (WUE)

This is paid to a former Member to allow him/her to bring their Assembly business to an orderly close. It includes office costs, rent and rates. It is capped at £4,500 for the three-month period following a Member’s departure from the Assembly. The expenditure may only be recovered if it has been incurred wholly and necessarily in connection with the person ceasing to be a Member, and has not been recovered from another person, nor has the Member been reimbursed in relation to the expense by any other person.

From time to time a programme of assurance reviews will be carried out on expenditure incurred by Members across a number of categories. Where any expense is found to be inadmissible under the terms of the Determination, recoupment will be sought from the Member and will be published under the description “Recovery of Inadmissible Expenses”

3Allowances

Travel

Two types of travel allowances are paid, (1) Annual Constituency Travel Allowance and (2) Annual Assembly Travel Allowance. The amounts payable depends on the constituency represented by the Member. The travel allowances are taxable and paid to the Member through payroll. Some Members may choose to defer receiving the monthly allowance of Annual Assembly travel, preferring to receive a payment based on their actual declared attendance at Parliament buildings at the end of the financial year. Travel for other reasons e.g. committee work may be incurred and payment is based on a calculation of excess mileage. Such incidental payments are not included in these allowances but are instead borne by the Assembly Commission.

Assembly Travel Allowance is payable for attendance at Parliament Buildings and Members have to attend 72 days or more to receive the full amount.

Allowance were own property is used as constituency office

Where a Member’s own property is used as a constituency office, an allowance of £2,000 may be claimed. In these circumstances, COE (see above) may not be claimed. In order to claim this allowance all other criteria relating to signage etc must be met.

Resettlement/Ill-Health Retirement

Resettlement allowance is paid to Members, who resign at the dissolution of the NI Assembly or are not returned following an election, once all the arrangements necessary to wind up their Assembly business have been made and executed. Ill health payments may be payable to Members who resign on the grounds of ill health, only if all of the necessary criteria are fulfilled. They do not receive resettlement allowance. Members who resign during the mandate for any other reason do not receive either allowance.

4Staffing Costs

Staffing costs are divided into four categories:

  • Category 1 - staff salaries, including contractual and statutory maternity, paternity, and adoption pay; statutory shared parental pay; contractual and statutory sick pay; payments made to a temporary work agency in respect of the salary of an agency worker; and staff costs associated with home working arrangements;
  • Category 2 - other capped staff costs, including training, recruitment and support staff travel costs;
  • Category 3 - ancillary staff costs, including employers’ contributions to national insurance, pension contributions, statutory redundancy payments, temporary work agency fees and charges associated with the engagement of agency workers via a temporary work agency, and employer’s liability insurance; and
  • Category 4 - replacement staff costs, including those costs incurred in temporarily employing a person to replace an employee where the employee is absence for a continuous period of at least four weeks by reason of illness, maternity leave, paternity leave or adoption leave.

Category 1 costs are limited to £80,000 per year. The amount available is reduced for Members who only hold office for part of the year. Staff must be employed on one of the three defined pay scales, and be engaged on the specified terms and conditions outlined in the Schedule to the 2016 Determination (as amended). Staff must be employed on merit following a fair and open recruitment competition.

Category 2 costs are capped. A maximum of £1,500 may be claimed each year for training costs and a limit of £500 per recruitment competition applies. Support staff travel costs are capped depending on which Constituency the Member represents.

Category 3 costs are unlimited.

Category 4 costs are not capped, however, they may only continue to be claimed as long as the employee who is absent continues to be paid the appropriate recoverable salary.

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