During the past few days I have received several enquiries from constituents about MPs’ parliamentary expenses, following the news that MPs’ office budget allocations would be increased by £10,000 to help staff to deal with the significant increase in constituent casework due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and any costs incurred from adapting to working from home; however, there has been some misinformation and confusion on this.
To clarify the situation: MPs have not been given any extra money. IPSA have taken a decision to increase budget allocations for office costs to allow for any additional costs that may be incurred. As far as I am aware, no MPs asked for this increase, and many MPs may not use it or may only use a small part. This will clearly depend on individual circumstances and how long the current situation goes on when most MPs have closed their offices in line with guidance, meaning that all office staff are now working from home.
My own situation is that I have no additional costs to work from home personally speaking. I already have a laptop and an iPad and the phone calls to my office are now automatically diverted to mobile telephones. In terms of my staff, we already have office laptops. The only additional costs my office has incurred is approx. £80 for two laser jet printers so that my staff can print letters to or on behalf of constituents. This cost is already within the existing annual budget.
There may well be other MPs that do not have existing equipment and may need to purchase laptops, printers and mobile phones. In some cases there may be an additional cost incurred for diverting mail for example or perhaps sending additional information/updates to constituents.
Casework raised by constituents has significantly increased over the last month for all MPs, as people may expect, because we are in an unprecedented and uncertain time. I know from my own casework that we have many hundreds of people from across Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney needing support with employment issues, DWP and tax queries, health-related concerns and a large number of people who have been stranded overseas.
The cases are in addition to the normal casework. My staff team and I are getting on with the job and will continue to do our very best with the hundreds of cases, new and existing that we are dealing with.
Sadly, the media loves a story on ‘expenses’ and in the past there have unfortunately been a minority of people who abused the system. Press headlines often conjure up a perception that expenses can be used and abused for all manner of things but the reality is that expenses cover things like office costs, office rent, telephone, printing and stationery, holding advice surgeries and staff salaries.
Any claims under these legitimate headings have to be justified, and are made with documentary evidence and these claims are published quarterly so the whole system is completely transparent which is as it should be.
I hope this clarifies the position, but should any constituents have further queries on this then please do not hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 01685 383 739.