Polly Curtis at the Guardian brought us the story yesterday of an MPs letter complaining about the new expenses regime at the House of Commons. (Run by IPSA – the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority). Members are writhing over perceived unfairness, for example:
* The £110,000 budget for staff is less than some MPs received before, after pensions are taken into account, meaning they have to cut wages, lay off staff or top up the payments themselves.
* No funding was specifically made available to pay maternity leave costs.
* A cap on rent could force some MPs with children to live separately in the week.
* Some MPs are struggling with the set-up costs of their new jobs and cannot afford to pay for the flat deposits and new computer equipment for their constituency offices
* MPs are complaining that they are getting no proper advice from Ipsa and have to put all inquiries in writing.
One Labour MP I spoke to yesterday was furious that he was having to pay 15 per cent of all calls made from his constituency office out of his own pocket. “Have you ever heard of any private sector employer doing that?” he asked, incredulous.
And what of the plan to end subsidised food across the entire Parliamentary Estate? It is slowly dawning on lobby journalists that they too will no longer have access to cheap lunches and pints. (The horror).
Jim Sheridan, joint chair of the Unite Parliamentary group, was on Today this morning saying there was “a lot of anger and anxiety amongst MPs and indeed their staff about the changes Ipsa are wishing to implement in terms of the new pension arrangements“. Some jobs would have to go within Parliament, he warned.
Andrew McDonald, who runs the new body, said he would consider such complaints: IPSA did need to “raise our game“, he commented.