The scandal that just won't die: MPs' expenses increase yet again

And so it continues... the expenses scandal returns to the headlines once again
And so it continues... the expenses scandal returns to the headlines once again
Alex Stevenson By

MPs' expenses are back in the news once more, after it emerged the total allowances bill is now larger than it was before the 2009 scandal shattered public confidence in Britain's politicians.

Figures showed MPs claimed a total of £98 million in 2012/13, up from the £95.4 million cost to the taxpayer in 2008/09.

The jump is all the more notable as it follows total claims of just £91 million in 2011/12.

It means the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) watchdog, set up in the aftermath of the original expenses scandal, faces criticism for failing to stop the overall cost to the taxpayer rising.


Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "While there have been many sensible changes to the expenses regime since the 2009 scandal, this kind of year-on-year rise is totally unsustainable and Ipsa has to explain to those of us footing the bill how that has been allowed to happen."

Ipsa blamed the increase on higher staffing costs and said it had helped save the taxpayer £35 million since its establishment. It cost £6 million to set up, however.

Concern about MPs' enthusiasm to award high salaries to family members working in their private offices in Westminster is peaking this year.

The practice was permitted to continue by Ipsa but 155 out of the Commons' 650 MPs now employ a family member, up from 145 last year.

Among them is Mid-Bedfordshire's Nadine Dorries, whose daughter Philippa received at least £40,000 as an office manager.

Increases in spending on security and 'reward and recognition payments' were up. MPs' personal expenses claims remained broadly flat but expenditure on staffing budgets jumped upwards.

The largest individual claim was from North Antrim MP Ian Paisley, who topped six figures with his total request for £100,204.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Alistair Carmichael, who represents the Orkneys and Shetlands, was second with £82,878 while Conservative MP David Morris, representing Morecambe and Lunesdale, was third.

Tory MP Zac Goldsmith, perhaps taking advantage of his personal wealth, did not submit any expenses claims in the last month.

The 2009 expenses scandal continues to have a damaging effect on public trust in Britain's politicians.

But despite the continuing re-emergence of expenses into the headlines its overall effect on public opinion appears to be abating.

The British Social Attitudes survey found 32% of people almost never trust the government, up from 11% in 1986. But that figure peaked at 40% in 2009 and has been decline since.

The Hansard Society's annual Audit of Political Engagement found only 23% of voters are satisfied with the way MPs are doing their job, however. This is a significant decline on the 29% who expressed satisfaction three years ago.

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