Home Business News Controversial new report hopes to make expense claims easier for MPs

Controversial new report hopes to make expense claims easier for MPs

by LLB Editor
13th Dec 11 12:24 pm

In a bid to reinstate the powers to scrutinise their own expenses, MPs are calling for flat-rate allowances instead of submitting receipts for each claim.

In its first report after the expenses crisis in 2009, the Committee on Members’ Expenses recommends that a set allowance to fund travel and accommodation would be cheaper to run and would cut bureaucratic burden on MPs.

The report, which will be debated by MPs on Thursday, says that the existing system does not provide value for money. MPs and their staff input details of each claim in the new online expenses scheme which puts MPs off claiming for legitimate items.

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It also says responsibility for administering expenses should return to the Commons – but be overseen by expenses body Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

However, IPSA expressed concerns about the report and pointed out that a new system would “reintroduce the arrangements” that led to the 2009 expenses scandal.

Reacting to the report, IPSA said, “The Committee’s words about the importance of independence are not consistent with many of their recommendations, in particular those which call for a return to the days when MPs and the House authorities administered their costs and expenses, and where MPs themselves had a role in deciding upon those costs and expenses.”

The expenses body also added that the committee explicitly threatens to override IPSA’s independent board if they do not act as the committee demands.  

MPs can currently claim up to £19,900 a year for renting second homes in London and paying household bills.

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Those with constituencies in the capital or who opt to use their own property get a flat-rate supplement of £3,760, or £5,090 for inner London.

Many whose seats are a significant distance from Westminster spend more than £10,000 annually on travel.

A spokesman for the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “The report beggars belief that some MPs are still asking taxpayers to hand them flat rate allowances without any receipts being provided.

“This sounds like some politicians want a return to the bad old days of duck houses and moat cleaning. Public trust in the system is still only slowly being rebuilt after the expenses scandal and although IPSA is not perfect there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water.

“MPs should stop pretending that they are a special case and should accept that they have to keep their receipts and claim the money back like most taxpayers who claim expenses in their own jobs.”

In September this year, LondonlovesBusiness.com research revealed that following the expenses scandal, 24 of London’s 73 elected representatives were too scared to claim for mileage, underground fares or meals even though they could.

Speaking about the expenses, MP for Ilford Lee Scott told LondonlovesBusiness.com, “It’s not worth it. Having to fill out for every single last journey you make, to fill in every single item was taking me literally hours. It became more trouble than its worth.

“I don’t have the time, and I imagine it’s the same for the others.”

Other London MPs that didn’t claim for their travel or sustenance in 2008/2009 or 2010/2011 are MP for Hampstead and Kilburn Glenda Jackson and MP for Greenwich and Woolwich Nick Raynsford.

On the other hand, there is a difference of almost £20,000 for “general administration” claims made by different London MPs from May 2010 and April 2011, to cover day-to-day running costs including office equipment and basic security.

While MP for Barking Margaret Hodge was the biggest spender claiming £19,500 on admin costs, MP for Uxbridge & South Ruislip John Randall and MP for Richmond Park & North Kingston Zac Goldsmith expensed nothing at all. 

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