Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Politicians & Money

Quite often, when keen to criticise a politician, or for that matter any public servant, the press, and by extension the public, like to raise the issue of how much the individual is paid from the public purse.

This morning, on Good Morning Ulster, this happened when the issue of Policing Board membership was discussed. As it stands Independent members of the Policing Board are paid roughly £19,000 a year. The work requires a minimum commitment of 4 days a month.

Taken at first glance it's easy to see why this would cause some consternation. However, the reality is that an effective member of the policing board contributed far more than 4 days a month just clocking in and the role carries considerable responsibility.

Our Members of Parliament are paid upwards of £65,000 a year and our MLA's receive, I believe, somewhere around £45,000. There is actually NO minimum requirement of attendance for these roles and nor should there be.

As in Private Enterprise, salaries & rewards for public servants need to be commensurate with the role as well as acting as an incentive to attract the right candidates. In addition, they need to reflect the unique position of trust & integrity placed on the holder of the role.

Politicians are often in positions where they can bring to bear enormous influence. There are no shortage of people happy to pay to see that that influence is in their favour. A well rewarded and financially secure individual is harder to corrupt.

There is no doubt that in many cases the public do not get value for money but you don't address the issue by lowering the monetary value of the position, you do it by increasing the calibre of the candidate filling the role.

Putting the focus solely on how much someone gets paid only serves to distract from the real problem with a significant number of our politicians - that of capability.

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