MPs expenses scandal: costs up 25% in a year
Filed under: News
So what's going on?
ExpensesAccording to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, the bill for MPs expenses went up 25% in the last tax year to an astonishing £89.4 million. It's only just shy of the bill at the peak of the crisis of £95.6 million in 2009.
And while it says it has different standards and a rigid approach to the rules, it only actually rejected seven claims last year. Six of them were tiny travel bills from Chris Huhne, which came to a total of less than £5, and one was an electricity bill from former Education Minister Tim Loughton - which was rejected as a 'duplicate'.
PleasedThe IPSA is quite happy with this bill - arguing that the reason it was lower last year was only because of the general election, and this was a sustainably lower figure.
Chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said: "There will be some who might say 'this is too much 'or 'I could do it for less'. But we should look at the issue in more depth. MPs are there to represent us. If we want to be able to see our MP, contact their staff – and it is in on MPs' staff where most of this expense goes, visit MPs' offices, have them write to us, represent us in Parliament, and help us with problems in the constituency, we have to face the fact that there is a cost to doing so. If we want a good service from our MPs, we have to fund them. And if you don't think you get a good service from your MP, the answer is not to withhold funding– it is to use your vote."
He claimed a great leap forward in that the figures are being published - including details of whether any family member is being employed - saying: "What we now have are clear, fair rules setting out what MPs can claim, with an independent regulator to govern the system, and transparency so we can all see where our money goes. The fact that you can go onto our website and browse the figures at your leisure is testament to how much has changed in just a couple of years."
Where the money goesIn one respect he is right: we can see the extent of the claims now. However, you'd have to be quite myopic to consider £5 million to be a reasonable saving once you have eliminated the moats and the duck houses from the sums.
The huge expenses figure comes from the fact that most MPs still have to run two houses (one in London and one in their constituency) and commute between them, so they charge a small fortune in rent and travel.
Many also have staff to pay for. The top claimants received over £150,000 each - one because he has a remote Scottish constituency and one because of staffing health problems.
Over-the-topOne big spender was Gordon Brown, who claimed £127,197, including £13,458 in travel - despite the fact he has only spoken three times in the House of Commons chamber since he was ousted as Prime Minister.
Part of the problem comes from the fact that MPs are happy to help themselves to things they consider essential that the rest of us consider to be luxuries beyond our grasp. This includes a shocking 50 Apple iPads claimed on expenses during the year.
Then, of course, is the multitude of things hiding in the detail. It's hard to know what a bill labelled 'other' was for, just as it can be difficult to understand why so many MPs are spending well over £2,000 a year on stationery. They must have quite a Christmas card list.
And don't let us forget that this is all in addition to large salaries and gold plated pensions.
So what do you think? Is this a step forward? Are we getting value for money? Or is this a lot of fuss and bother with very little result in the end? Let us know in the comments.
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