Monday, 27 January 2020

Cost of extra Senedd Members would take centuries to reach that of restoring Westminster

Welsh Assembly Members have a "remarkable workload" and more Senedd Members are needed, according to academics. but it will be hard to sell it to an already cynical public many of whom think that they spend all their working time in the siambr  debating .

Indeed one of the problems of democracy is that the casework that a Senedd Member   or a or MP member may have built up over the years may be lost if he or she loses their seat to another party.
Hopefully it can be handed over , but there is guarantee the new member , will be as sympathetic and this is another case for the argument for the STV and multi-member seats .
The Wasting Mule report that 
In 2017 a report found that the number of AMs should go up from 60 to between 80 and 90.
When it comes to cost it's estimated the cost would go up by £6.6m per year for 20 additional members to £9.6m per year for 30 additional members.
At an Assembly committee academics continued to say that was needed to ensure the future success of the Assembly. Professor Laura McAllister, from Wales Governance Centre, said: "I think there's only so much an institution can do with such a small number of backbenchers.
"We need a degree of size and capacity to be able to scrutinise properly and I am afraid that the backbench complement is far too small to be able to exercise that properly in a sustained way.
"I think AMs have a really quite remarkable workload. You can mitigate for as long as you like but unless there's a change in the number of AMs then they will be doing things which are just avoiding being underpowered.
"There's nowhere else in the world that is as underpowered as an institution viz a viz its powers than this institution".
Committee member Delyth Jewell, a Plaid Cymru AM, said increasing numbers could help increase diversity. She said that as no changes are likely to happen before 2026 there is a risk the workload for existing AMs will increase and things like family-friendly hours – something the Assembly boasts compared to Westminster where the Commons sits until late at night – are at risk.
Prof McAllister said that already Assembly committees have begun to meet on a Monday due to the workload they face. "The elastic has been stretched as far as it can be without breaking," she said.
In a typical week AMs travel to Cardiff on Monday mornings and committees meet on Monday afternoons. Tuesday mornings see some committee meetings and group meetings for political parties.
The first plenary session of the week takes place on Tuesday afternoon with more committees on Wednesday morning and another plenary on Wednesday afternoon.
Thursdays are dedicated to committee meetings while Fridays are reserved for constituency and regional business.
Why did the panel think more AMs are needed?
  • Role, responsibilities and powers have changed since 1999
  • As more matters are devolved, there is a need for more AMs to scrutinise further devolution of areas of policy
  • Brexit will add "further changes" to the Assembly's role
  • There is a "fundamental limitation of the severely limited time available to 60 members to fulfil their varied and complex roles as legislators, scrutineers, representatives, employers and politicians"
  • AMs had said that a "regimented timetable" and strict whipping to be plenary for votes meant limited time for meetings with constituents, campaigners and groups.
The full report can be read online.Professor Diana Stirbu from London Metropolitan University told the committee: "This Assembly has been a learning Assembly from the very beginning. It had to adapt to very different legislative processes and different improvements."
She said when it comes to work in the constituency "I think the evidence we have heard during work we have conducted for the remuneration board, we have heard a lot of people say they don't see enough of their AM in their constituency".
Prof McAllister said she didn't believe committees couldn't continue at the rate they're working. "Until the issue of Assembly Member size is addressed there are going to have to be really tough decisions about what you do and don't do. I think that's a real shame and that undermines the principle of serving the people of Wales.
"The key currency of scrutiny is members' time and you all know how hard it is for you as members to keep on top of it as well we the other multifarious roles you all keep as AMs.
"It must be frustrating for you as politicians not to be able to do the work you want to do".
Prof Stirbu added: "People don't know very well what AMs do and what their working week looks like and what kind of work they do and requirements on their work.
"They know travelling from north to south is a big big deterrent. If there are members or candidates with caring responsibility they are very aware that being an AM is going to challenge their family life."
An Extra three million pounds a year considering the cost MPs set to leave Houses of Parliament for £3.5bn restoration

So even if inflation was taken into account the cost  of extra Senedd  Members would take centuries to reach the same level as restoring Westminster 

Indeed  the cost of two state openings of Parliament  within months , could be more than it would cost us to have extra AM's.

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