As an MP I am provided financial allowances and support to cover a variety of aspects of my role as an elected representative. There are small variations here and there but this summary will give you a good indication as to where our tax is spent regarding the running costs of a parliamentary office.
Members of Parliament are paid £74,000 a year. This figure is set independent of Parliament by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA). This body was created by Parliament to independently oversee and regulate MPs’ business costs and expenses. On top of that IPSA pays employers national insurance (NI) and pension contribution.
IPSA also provides me with a budget to employ staff to run my constituency office and, if I wish, to work alongside me at Westminster. My staff perform a number of duties, including, constituent casework, research and diary management. From that budget I also pay employers national insurance and pension. I do not spend my entire allocation.
My office administration budget is £23,450. This covers the rent, rates, utilities, stationery, telephones and all other running costs. I don’t use the entire budget.
I could claim my travel mileage while working in my constituency but I choose not to. Alongside this, new Members are provided a ‘Start-up’ budget of £6,000 which is only available for the first year. This budget can be used to furnish the constituency office with tables, chairs and filling cabinets, for example.
I have a ‘digital start-up allowance’ which covers all things computer and printer related. It is different from other allowances and works out at £5,800.
In London I can stay in a hotel or rent accommodation. I can’t purchase accommodation. The budget is £20,610 a year. In most places that would be entirely reasonable. In London, particularly Westminster, that is not much. The choice is to stay close to Westminster in ‘compact’ accommodation or live further afield, get more for your money but commute every day. I am not reimbursed for any daily commute. Currently I stay a ten minute walk from Westminster but that means I have a studio with my bed folding down into my living room. It’s clean and comfortable but not the high life some people presume MPs live.
My travel from Inverclyde to Westminster and back is provided. Once I arrive at Westminster I pay all my own expenses including any additional travel, all food and drink.
A few myth busters. I don’t get a clothing allowance. I don’t get to travel first class. I don’t enjoy fine dining with the best of wines in Members dining rooms. I don’t get free tickets for cup finals, Wimbledon, the Open or west end shows.
In summary I hope I have provided a breakdown of the costs involved in supporting an MP and four staff in full time employment. It’s a lot of money and having been self-employed for years and paid my full share of tax (income, NI, vat and corporate) I fully understand that the public must get value for that money and my team endeavour every day to make sure that happens. We never forget who pays us and who as a parliamentary office we work for. Only you can judge if the value outweighs the cost.
For more information on Members costs and expenses please visit www.parliamentary-standards.org.uk.