Survey sheds light on AMs' lives
7:20pm Wednesday 23rd January 2013 in Gwent news
TWO politicians took a pay cut of more than £30,000 when becoming members of the Welsh Assembly, a study has found.
The Hansard Society has published a study on what life is like in the first year of being an AM via a series of surveys and anonymous interviews.
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 the interviews.
Half of those taking part in the study said an AM's basic pay of £53,852 a year represented a salary increase.
Two AMs said they had seen a salary increase of £30,000 a year or more, while another two had seen a salary decrease of £30,000 a year or more.
One politician quoted in the report said: "I took a substantial drop in salary when I became an Assembly Member, and so that's a great sacrifice.
"But it's something I've always wanted to do and I decided I would do that in deference to my role at the Assembly.’’ The report also shed light on the challenges AMs faced when adapting to their new roles.
A year into their jobs, AMs were working an average 57 hours a week, plus travel - with pressure on time being a common issue.
Unlike MPs in Westminster, attendance in the chamber and at committees is almost compulsory, the report added.
It also pointed out that due to Labour's "minority government’’, every vote counted.
The study also said that during the AMs' first year, satisfaction with their work-life balance decreased.
One said their family was spending "an absolute fortune on childcare’’ and relying on favours.
Another added: "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.’’ But the new AMs praised the assembly's family-friendly working hours and the fact recess coincided with school holidays.
But there were complaints about assembly procedures, with questions to ministers being described as a "pantomime’’.
Another claimed plenary sessions - meetings of all 60 AMs on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons - were "overrated’’.
The report also highlighted a "perceived lack of accountability’’ for Welsh Government ministers and officials to the assembly.
They thought the 60-member assembly was too small, although the assembly's size meant members were virtually guaranteed to be called during debates.
Matt Korris - author of Assembly Line? The Experiences and Development of new Assembly Members - said the study provided some interesting insight into politicians' lives.
He said: "Understandably, they have complaints and frustrations about the role, but above all they draw great satisfaction from it, particularly the opportunities it affords them to help others through their constituency work.
"But there is clearly less satisfaction with the Assembly aspects of their role as legislators.
"As the debate about the future of the Assembly and its powers continues, political space is therefore needed for an inclusive discussion transcending party lines, focusing on the challenges AMs share in common if these issues are ever to be properly discussed.’’
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