A story has circulated in the national press concerning payments to MPs for home working that has understandably attracted a lot of comment. I think the headlines are deeply misleading.
Quite rightly, MPs have nothing to do with the making of these rules, that is the job of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). When IPSA set an allowance it isn’t a target, I’ve never spent all of the Office costs allowance in any year, last year there was around £16,000 of my Office costs budget unspent.
As MPs and their offices are now going to be working from home, there may be some MP’s staff who don’t have anything at home and will need some stuff buying. In my case, I’m glad to say with so much left over in my original budget, I don’t think Ill use any of this new budget at all, but if someone does buy a laptop for a staff member it really doesn’t make them a robber, out to cheat the taxpayer and this sort of language is most unhelpful at this time.
I suspect the vast majority of MPs will use way less than 10K, if they use any at all.
Some people have suggested this money should be donated to charities or to the NHS. This is nonsense, rather than donate it, most MPs won’t spend it at all.
The expenses system is so much more transparent that the shambolic one that allowed the MPs Expenses scandal and rightly so. But that transparency and openness to the media also requires responsible reporting. When you suggest to people facing the most difficult circumstances imaginable, that the people they elect are coining it in, they are understandably going to be furious. In fact the stories I’ve seen, whilst seeking to dramatise the facts, did tend to reflect the truth, but many people read no more than the ‘MPs get £10000 to work from home‘ headline, before dashing off angry Facebook posts.
Public confidence has never been more important, and my office has never been busier and I would like to thank my staff for the amazing work they are doing, coping with an unprecedented demand for help, advice and representation. It is a shame that I feel the need to divert from that work to provide a response to this story, but I think it is important that my constituents know the truth.