Today, Sir Roger Jones handed his report to the Assembly Commission. It concerns the allowances and expenses that his panel believes should be available to Assembly Members. In my opinion, most of the recommendations are sensible, a few less so but acceptable, with one or two which make no sense at all. But the necessity of restoring public faith in politics is so great, that I would vote in favour on the whole package, warts and all, if I were currently an AM myself. I've picked out what I see as the most significant recommendations;
1) AMs should have to produce receipt/documentary evidence to support every claim (Fundamentally important).
2) The salary link between MPs and AMs should be ended. (Sensible, and welcome in principle. But won't make much practical difference, because any body setting AM's salaries will have not much else to draw comparison with).
3) An external Independent Review Board should be established. (Cannot argue with this, bearing in mind how the public feels. But be little different from current Senior Salaries and Review Board).
4) Changes in pensions and payments to departing AMs are proposed. (Need more time to consider this).
5) From 2011, new members should only be allowed 'Resettlement' allowance if they are defeated - not if they retire. (This could well discourage sitting members in safe seats from standing down, and could lead to candidates standing who do not really want to win).
6) Claims for Mortgage Interest costs should be banned. (This is a kneejerk recommendation which will lead to increased costs if the Assembly takes on the role of landlord. It also challenges the family friendly principle - more a politician's base than a family home. But cannot be resisted. Don't agree with it though).
7) 35 AMs living closest to Cardiff should be able to claim for 20 overnights per annum, at £95 per night plus £20 for dinner. (Sensible - if they want to upgrade, they can pay the difference themselves).
8) The same 35 AMs should be able to claim £25 per night if staying with a friend instead. (Sensible).
9) The current £30.65 flat rate allowance for staying away from home should be abolished (Sensible).
10) The Assembly should provide 'suitable' accommodation, furnished to a 'modern' standard within 5 miles of the Senedd for the 25 AMs living furthest from Cardiff (This seems most unwise to me - and I expect it to prove very costly. But don't quite know what it means).
11) Lyn Neagle and Huw Lewis be considered as one person in respect of accommodation support (Sensible).
12 No claims for furniture or fittings (Sensible, since they are to be provided by the Assembly anyway!).
13 Assembly Members should be allowed to claim for utility bills, council tax, broadband, and TV licence to second homes. (Reasonable).
14) Any office rented from constituency parties, Trade Unions, etc. should be on the basis of a valuation agreed by an Assembly approved independent valuer (Sensible).
15) No family members to be employed (Regrettable, non family friendly measure - but sensible in the circumstances. Will lead to a poorer service from some AMs. Would have completely changed the way I worked, ending my effective 8.00 am - 11.00 pm office availability).
16) One week induction course. (Totally demeaning. Cannot think of anything worse. Enough to put me off altogether).
17) Training budget to be increased for AMs and staff. (Sensible)
I think I've picked out the most significant recommendations. Comments in italics are my initial reactions. Let me know what you think.