The Cost of Democracy……

31 Dec

At What Price Freedom…..?

 

As it’s 31 December 2012, I thought I’d take a look at the end of year accounts for our political representatives.  And, the first surprising fact in the aftermath of the ‘expenses scandal’, is that the austerity and cuts that our politicians constantly keep reminding us are necessities don’t appear to apply to them, even though ‘we are all in this together’.  The bill to the tax payer for the last year has risen by more than a quarter to £89.4 million, which is an average of £139,923 (and 7 pence) per MP.  I accept that MPs will incur some expenses but for the 296 days that parliament sat in 2012 it still works out that each MP claimed an average of £472.74 per day.Pound Sign

So, whilst the rest of us are supposed to be tightening our belts, buying ‘Smartprice’ baked beans and turning down our thermostats, our political representatives don’t appear to be doing the same.  I should make it clear that I am not accusing any MP of impropriety and I’m sure the claims they make fall within the parameters set out by the Department of Finance and Administration but I do draw a parallel with tax ‘avoidance’ which, although completely legal has been described by the Prime Minister as ‘immoral’……

Basic Salaries for MPs and Ministers……

An MPs basic salary as of 1 April 2010 is £65.738; not an unsubstantial amount.  Cabinet Ministers earn £134.565 inclusive of the basic MPs salary.  The UK’s average income for a full time employee rose by 1.4% to £26.500 in the year to April 2012, less than the 3.5% rise in inflation.  Although this may be an average there are many employees who earn the national minimum wage which is £6.19 p/h for people aged 21 years and over, £4.98 for 18 to 21 year olds, £3.68 for under 18s and £2.65 for apprentices; so if you are over 21 and work 37.5 hours per week your wage before tax and National Insurance will be £232.12p/w giving you a take home wage packet of £206.53p/w compared to the take home pay of £863.59p/w for MPs and £1,568.93p/w for a Cabinet Minister (source – http://www.listentotaxman.com).

The average salary for Directors and Chief Executives of major companies is £112,157 and Corporate Managers and Senior Officials £77,697, so MPs salaries are not far removed from those in the private sector with comparable jobs, however, I doubt that they are allowed £134,565 for expenses and questions would be asked should they attempt to claim such a large amount……

What is an Acceptable Claim…..?

Or, more importantly, what isn’t?  MPs are allowed to claim for food.  I may be missing something but surely MPs need to eat regardless of where they are just like the rest of us.  I have never been allowed to claim for the cost of my lunch in any job I have ever had.   This is one of the allowances which are in my opinion unacceptable.  Similarly, the costs of Sky TV packages stretch the boundaries of credence.  Some time ago when I checked the expenses of Gillian Merron, the ex-Labour MP for Lincoln, I found that she claimed for a number of daily newspapers.  Whilst MPs need to find out what the media has to report, surely the Sky TV, Telephone and Broadband package would give access to the online publications of the newspapers for which she claimed, making it an unnecessary extra expense for the tax payer, albeit minimal, every penny counts in the age of ‘austerity’.  There are countless examples of claims for everyday necessities such as food which is needed regardless of whether your MP is in their constituency or in Whitehall……

Rent……

Not, in this case, boys, rather MPs renting property to each other.  This has arisen as a direct consequence of the expenses scandal, property flipping and the measures put in place to try and resolve the problem.  As those involved in tax ‘avoidance’ find new ways around any changes in the rules, certain MPs found a way to circumvent the new rules by renting property to one and other, a loophole in the rules that effectively allows them to continue building up property nest-eggs at taxpayers’ expense (source – The Telegraph).  At the time of publishing The Telegraph had identified 27 MPs who are renting London homes while claiming rental income for other properties.  Although not in breach of the rules it is a demonstration of manipulation for personal gain.  John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons went to great lengths to avoid revealing the names of those involved being released to the media on the grounds that it would ‘jeopardise security’……

Conclusion……

The individual and what could be considered dubious claims of some of our MPs are far too numerous to list but one has to ask if the taxpayer is getting value for money from the expenses claims of our political representatives and if they are acting in good faith even when complying with the regulations…..?

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