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Extra cost of more Senedd Members will be 0.07% of Wales’ devolved budget

18 Sep 2023 10 minute read
The Siambr. Picture by National Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Martin Shipton

The extra running costs incurred by increasing the number of Senedd Members from 60 to 96 will be around £14.5m to £17.5m in a typical year, the Welsh Government has said.

This figure includes Senedd Members, Ministers, staff and other associated costs for the Senedd Commission, Welsh Government, and Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales.

It represents just 0.07% of the £24bn total annual Welsh budget (known as the Welsh Consolidated Fund).

Set-up costs are expected to be in the region of £8m.

Recently the Welsh Conservatives have been claiming that the cost of expanding the Senedd would be £100m. A leaflet distributed by North Wales MS Sam Rowlands included a survey for residents which asked the question: “Do you agree with plans to increase the number of Welsh Parliament members from 60 to 96, at a cost of £100m?”

The accurate figures have been released to coincide with publication of the Senedd Reform Bill.

An explanatory memorandum published on the Senedd Commission’s website states: “Over the eight-year appraisal period the majority of the administrative costs are expected to fall to the Senedd Commission. The transitional cost of £5,787,300 to £5,986,800 includes an expansion of the current Siambr, the creation of additional offices within Ty Hywel and staff costs associated with the implementation of the Bill.

Ongoing costs

In addition, there are ongoing costs of between £82,196,900 and £100,017,500, this includes additional staff within the Senedd Commission, Office holder costs, Member and support staff salaries and other allowances. There will be a transitional cost of £1,968,600 to Welsh Government for the creation of additional Ministerial offices in Ty Hywel and staff costs to implement the Bill. The Welsh Government’s ongoing costs are expected to be between £8,342,300 and £10,270,200.

Much of this is expected to be the opportunity costs associated with needing additional private office and Cabinet Secretariat staff. Other ongoing costs relate to security and IT. There will be a cost of £2,079,600 (£42,000 transitional and £2,037,600 ongoing) to the Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales for undertaking boundary reviews ahead of the 2026 and 2030 elections. There is a transitional cost of £60,000 to Local Authorities.

Ongoing cost savings of £751,000 have been identified for local authorities as a result of changes to the electoral system (reduction in number of ballot papers) and number of constituencies (saving on Returning Officer fees).

The reform package is, says the Welsh Government, aimed at making the Senedd more modern and effective, and better able to represent people in Wales, with increased capacity to scrutinise, make laws, and hold the government to account. It also realises the recommendations made by the Special Purpose Committee on Senedd Reform, which were endorsed by a majority of Senedd Members in June 2022.

If Senedd Members support the changes outlined in the Bill, they will be in place for the 2026 Senedd elections.

The Senedd Reform Bill proposes the following changes:

* The Senedd will have 96 Members elected using closed proportional lists. The seats would be allocated to parties using the D’Hondt formula.

* The 32 new UK Parliament constituencies will be paired to create 16 Senedd constituencies for the 2026 Senedd election. Each constituency will elect six Members.

* Senedd elections will revert to being held every four years from 2026 onwards. The term was increased to five years following the 2011 election with the aim of avoiding a clash with Westminster general elections after the passing of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act. That Act has now been repealed, and the timing of general elections is once again a decision for the Prime Minister of the day.

* An increase in the maximum number of Welsh Ministers which can be appointed from 12 to 17 (plus the First Minister and the Counsel General) with an additional power to enable a further increase in the number to 18 or 19 with the approval of the Senedd.

* Increase the maximum number of Deputy Presiding Officers who can be elected by Senedd Members from one to two.

* All candidates for future Senedd elections must live in Wales. Many found it ridiculous that former UKIP Mid and West Wales MS Neil Hamilton lived not in Wales, but in Wiltshire.

* A pathway for further consideration in the Seventh Senedd of the practical and legislative implications of job-sharing of offices relating to the Senedd

* A review mechanism to consider the operation and effect of the new legislative provisions following the 2026 election and any other Senedd reform issue it considers relevant.

Boundary review

The Bill also proposes a full boundary review should take place after the 2026 Senedd election. This will take effect at the 2030 Senedd election, with reviews every eight years. The Local Democracy and Boundary Commission for Wales will be repurposed and renamed – to be known as the Democracy and Boundary Commission Cymru with the functions necessary to undertake reviews of Senedd constituency boundaries.

A separate Bill to introduce gender quotas for candidates for election to the Senedd will be brought forward later in the year. It has been separated from the main Bill because of concerns about the possibility of legal challenges.

Counsel General Mick Antoniw said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a modern Senedd, which truly reflects Wales, and to strengthen our democracy.

“We are creating a more effective Senedd, with a greater ability and capacity to hold the Welsh Government to account. This Bill will help ensure the Senedd also reflects the huge changes to Wales’ devolution settlement since 1999, including law-making and tax-raising powers.

“Wales is the most under-represented country in the UK – the Senedd has the least Members of any devolved Parliament in the country and the recent reduction to UK Parliamentary seats is the most significant change in a century.”

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “Twenty six years ago to the day when the people of Wales voted Yes for devolution, we are taking another historic step to strengthen and empower our democracy.

“A stronger, more representative Senedd, elected through a proportional system, will be better equipped to continue to make a difference to the people of Wales. It will ensure fairness, provide better scrutiny and help all of us realise our ambition for Wales and our maturing democracy.

“Once passed, the Senedd Reform Bill will also place Welsh democracy on firmer foundations and bring us closer to the size of the legislatures in Scotland and the north of Ireland. This stands in stark contrast to the way in which Wales’s representation on a UK level at Westminster is being weakened.”

The Scottish Parliament has 129 members, while the Northern Ireland Assembly has 90.

Coalition

A coalition of leading organisations in Wales welcomed the Bill.

Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru, the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) and Women’s Equality Network (WEN) Wales said it is an important step forward for Welsh democracy and that it will correct the longstanding inequality where Wales has been left as the only parliament within the UK too small to carry out its workload.

However the coalition urged the Welsh Government to rethink its plans to move to a “closed list” voting system that does not allow electors to vote for a named candidate, but simply for a party.

Jess Blair, director of ERS Cymru, said: “This is a significant day for Welsh democracy. It has been clear since the early days of devolution that 60 members is too small a number to run a national parliament. Since the Welsh Parliament was first created nearly a quarter of a century ago its powers and responsibilities have expanded exponentially, yet the Senedd has remained smaller than many local councils across Wales. It would not have been acceptable in any other part of the UK to have a parliament smaller than nearly half of local authorities in thecountry – this reform is long overdue.

“This has left Wales in the unacceptable position of having to run what is in effect a part-time parliament as it has not had enough members to fully scrutinise vital legislation and significant decisions about how public services are run. This Bill will merely bring the Welsh Senedd into line with the Northern Ireland Assembly when it comes to representatives, and it will still be significantly smaller than the Scottish Parliament.

“However, we do have concerns about the proposed voting system to elect these additional members. A closed list system will remove the chance for voters to be able to back individual candidates. It remains disappointing that the government has chosen not to implement the Single Transferable Vote system, which was recommended by experts and a Senedd committee. This would maintain a direct link between voters and candidates as well as making the Senedd more proportional. We would urge the Welsh Government to at the very least move to a more open or flexible list system where voters can vote for named candidates.”

Reform

Auriol Miller, director of the IWA, said: “We join ERS Cymru in welcoming the much needed Senedd reform proposals presented to the Senedd today. With an already significant increase in the responsibilities of the Senedd, it’s vital that the capacity of the Senedd is substantially increased, to better reflect the powers and responsibilities it now holds. The people of Wales deserve better representation, better lawmaking and more effective scrutiny of those laws.

“However, while the reforms are a welcome step to strengthening Wales’ democracy, they fall short of the fully Single Transferable Vote system we would prefer. The loss of the direct link between voter and candidate inherent in the closed list system goes against our current political culture. The electoral process risks being weakened by being less transparent and less trusted by the electorate who put their vote and their trust in a specific named candidate. A closed list system makes this more opaque to an electorate already not yet fully engaged with Senedd elections and is counter productive.

“This is also at a time when we need to encourage more people and more diverse candidates to stand to represent their communities. We regard the closed list system as a backward step and we hope to see this reformed as the proposals work their way through the Senedd.”

Evelyn James, Diverse5050 campaign manager at WEN Wales, said: “On behalf of the entire Diverse5050 Coalition, we wholeheartedly welcome the proposed expansion of the Senedd. It will increase the Senedd’s capacity to properly scrutinise legislation and policy, which can ultimately translate into better frontline public services and better value for money for the people in Wales.

“It is crucial that these proposals go hand in hand with measures to improve diverse and equal representation. People from all communities in Wales have a right to a seat at the decision-making table. Yet women remain underrepresented and it has taken over 20 years for the first ethnic minority woman to be elected into the Senedd. We also know that diversity leads to better decision-making, so this is a unique opportunity to bring in a fresh breath of air from candidates with different perspectives.

“However, we are concerned about the proposed closed list voting system. It removes people’s choice to vote for the candidate they think best represents their concerns and we hope that this will be reconsidered as the bill moves through the Senedd.”


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Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

The increase of Senedd members is vital to ensure our Senedd Cymru functions smoothly and those in power are scrutinised properly. Democracy on the cheap costs more in the long run. And the additional £14.5 – £17 million cost for more Senedd members is peanuts compared to the fiscal waste Welsh Tory idiocrat Andrew RT Davies’s English overlords on London have squandered since 2010. For example. During the first year of the Covid pandemic the Conservative government in London wasted £6 billion of taxpayers money on faulty PPE supplies that had to be burnt. And put into context. The money… Read more »

Last edited 5 months ago by Y Cymro
Bachgen o Lerpwl
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Because the Tories in England were not cynil that is justification for the Senedd to spend more in order to better represent the people it is accused of ignoring.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

All that’s being done is putting in place the correct amount of politicians in our Senedd Cymru to enable it to function properly and to scrutinised Welsh Government legislation. As said, you cannot run a country’s seat of democracy on the cheap. And yes, criticise Welsh Labour policies do, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater because you oppose their policies. The Senedd is not Welsh Labour. They are only the governing party. I want a change of government too not more Welsh Labour. It’s up to the voters to make real change not vote continuously Welsh Labour… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

A quarter century in power has gone to their heads…ych a fi…

Richard
Richard
5 months ago

Too many Councils and over paid Top Officers & Cabinet Councillors doing less and less I’m afraid. We need to see 2 to 5 less authorities which will save millions. Change through amalgamation.

G. Gregory.
G. Gregory.
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Let’s get back to 7 County councils in Wales and get rid of these expensive duplicating jobs for the boys councils as for increasing the admin of the Welsh regional government it needs reducing after all the population is 3.8 million not as many as most English cities, do they have 95 members.the trough is getting bigger, but that’s Labour for you.

CapM
CapM
5 months ago
Reply to  G. Gregory.

Estonia has a population less than half that of Cymru and has a parliament of one hundred and one.
But then it has a higher rank than the UK (never mind Cymru) as ranked by Democracy matrix.

Anti devolutionists really need to read more if for whatever the reason they can’t experience life outside Britain.
There are more and better ways of doing things than what’s done by an England dominated UK.

Last edited 5 months ago by CapM
Alwyn Evans
Alwyn Evans
5 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Remember that it was the Tories for sheer spite that destroyed the effective 8 council system in Wales in 1996 and started the paid councillor profiligate 22 councils that has NEVER worked successfully

Ianto
Ianto
5 months ago

For a touch of context, Wales presently contributes 10 million a WEEK towards a railway line wholly in England that will never be completed.

Glyntwin
Glyntwin
5 months ago
Reply to  Ianto

And the £5 billion we’re not getting in consequentials would pay for our extra MSs for 294 years!

Dai Thomas
Dai Thomas
4 days ago

Some very dubious arguments on here! Estonia MPs earn considerably less than AMs in Wales so the overall employment bill for the taxpayer is currently around the same. However, to expand the SENEDD to Estonian levels, and so that AMs can ‘do a better job’, would cost around £120 million: https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/huge-120m-cost-expanding-senedd-27795203
Ask the electorate if they would rather spend that money on a proper pay rise for junior doctors, improving school buildings, employing more police officers etc. I think we all know the answer.

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