Separate MLA offices would cost $1M

The government currently pays about $650,000 for the operation of various district representative offices around the islands.

However, if the country switched to single member constituent districts, the cost of operating 18 separate MLA offices would jump to $960,000 per year, members of the Legislative Assembly’s Finance Committee heard Friday.

The information was revealed when George Town MLA Joey Hew asked for an explanation of the rationale behind constituent allowances.

The MLA offices are typically rented or owned accommodations where political parties or groups of elected members meet with constituents, hold caucus meetings or plan re-election strategies. They now operate on a cost-sharing strategy under the government budget, which provides less funding to MLAs who have more members using the constituent offices.

Cabinet Secretary Samuel Rose said the payments, known as constituency allowances, are paid on an upfront basis and mainly go toward the cost of renting office space and the cost of salaries for personnel who staff those offices.

The maximum amount any one MLA can receive for a constituency allowance is $4,000 per month. Mr. Rose said that would be broken down into $2,000 per month for office staff support, $1,500 for rent and $500 for utilities and other costs of operating the office.

However, not every MLA receives that amount in constituency allowances.

“What has been the practice here is that many of those costs are actually shared between two or more MLAs,” Mr. Rose said.

For instance, in George Town, where independent members Winston Connolly and Roy McTaggart share an office, separate allowance payments would be $2,880 for each MLA.

In West Bay, where Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush and MLAs Bernie Bush and Capt. Eugene Ebanks share one office, the allowance payment is $2,400 for each MLA.

In George Town, where Premier Alden McLaughlin, Ministers Kurt Tibbetts and Marco Archer and MLA Joey Hew share an office, each member receives $2,000 for constituency allowance purposes.

Mr. Rose said the amount paid for constituency allowances has not increased from the current $654,300 during the upcoming 2014/15 budget.

Now, Cayman Islands lawmakers operate in multi-member constituent districts – with the exception of two single member districts in North Side and East End – where MLAs operate separate offices.

If all MLAs wanted their own offices under each single member district, it would require the maximum payment for constituency allowance to each representative and overall costs to government would increase.