Truth, damn truth and statistics: Politician expenses scandal

Assured Angel By Assured Angel, 25th Jun 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>News>Politics

Democracy has been around for centuries affecting everyone - from the young to the old, from the rich to the poor. Being voted for by the people carries with it a certain responsibility - political? Certainly. Financial? Yes. Moral? For sure. Flawed as they are, they are role models and shape

Politics and scandal : close bedfellows

Taxes. They are a major pain, but they are necessary. In the United Kingdom, our healthcare system is funded by the government, using the taxpayers' money. We are told this is needed to build our roads, to help build your retirement pensions and to help those that really need it. If this was the case, then I would have absolutely no qualms about handing 20% of my hard earned money in taxes and national insurance contributions to the government. Why? Because no matter how developed the country, there are always those that need a little helping hand and who require slightly more support-- because it is tough out there. However, there are those who abuse the system and work it to their advantage, causing others who need it to miss out--and yes, that makes me angry.

The most recent scandal to hit the political scene in the United Kingdom is the expense money--also taxpayer money--that politicians have available and how it is used. If these funds were coming out of their own substantially-lined pockets, then I would have no issues with them spending £2500 on finely spun silk curtains or £1500 pruning their garden. When the funds come from money the taxpayers have spent hours working for - getting up early and staying late--then I really do have an issue and have to bring out my soapbox once again, for I am far from alone: the national news has laid out the facts and general opinion has been on the news sites, so it’s time to bring this to the next level, of inviting public opinion and debate.

Here is the lowdown on what politicians are paid in terms in salary and expenses in the United Kingdom.

England
- Members of Parliament (MPs) are paid around £63,000 (around $102,000) a year and they also get allowances for running their office and their homes. There are nine main things for which they are allowed to be reimbursed, and they are:


· Second homes (which many of them have) - anything from the mortgage to the gardening

· Travel Costs

· Staff Pay

· Stationery


In 2007, the average claimed by MPs was £135,000 ($220,000 approximately) with the lowest being just over £44,500 ($72,291) and the highest being over £185,000 ($301,000 approximately). If any of the MP’s do not represent constituencies in inner London, they can claim up to £24,000 ($38,990) towards the cost of a second home or rented property in and around London usually in Westminster near the Houses of Parliament. This covers items such as furniture, kitchens and certain appliances, and this includes £25 (around $40) a day for food and beverages.

If they want to employ staff, they are given money for that too and they are even allowed to employ members of their own family as long as they register correctly. They receive £90,505 ($147,086) to do this. They also have travel expenses. They travel business class (when flying by air) and first class (when traveling by rail) within the UK and are allowed up to three European visits a year. Their families are allowed up to 15 return journeys!

MP’s in London get an extra £2,812 ($4,569) a year for just being in London, an allowance for stationery (£3,000 = $4,873) and for I.T. (£10,000 = $16,244). If they are voted out or resign, they get a resettlement allowance which is equal to 50-100% of their annual salary.

Scotland - Members of Scottish Parliament (MSP’s) get paid £55,381($89, 949). It is linked to their counterparts in Westminster. If there is an increase in pay down south, it is reflected in Scotland. The allowance system here is a lot stricter and will be getting tighter. For example, MSP’s will not be able to claim for the mortgage payments for their homes, only the rent for their second home. At present, allowances for accommodation rest just below £12,000 ($14,491) but they have to live a certain distance away from Parliament to get it. They have to provide receipts for everything and these are published quarterly. They can claim £56,000 ($90,954) a year for office and staff expenses. They cannot claim for travel expenses for their family and relatives.

Wales - Assembly members receive salaries of £50,692 ($82,357). If they are outside the capital Cardiff, they can claim £13,000 ($21,124) for second homes which they can use on things like rent, refurbishment and interest on their mortgage payments. They can claim up to £15,000 ($24,369) for employees and staff but there are very stringent guidelines for this. They can claim for travel throughout the United Kingdom when on assembly business. Their partners are entitled to 12 journeys a year and their staff are entitled to 18.

Northern Ireland - Their members are paid £42,461 ($68,984) a year and have no expenses for a second home. They DO get up to £72,000 ($116,965) for office costs, which covers things such as employing staff, equipment, stationery and bills. They can also claim for travel while doing their duties and can also claim for refreshments for their visitors. If they stand down or lose an election, they get a resettlement fee equivalent to 50-100% of their salary.

I know that politicians work hard. But so do the people that they purport to represent. The system (which is largely self-regulatory) is broken. It is too easy to “play” the system or outright steal. That is why there is this scandalous situation where the rules are bent beyond recognition and broken with impunity (one MP tried to claim back £5 he put in a church offering - c'mon now!). Many have fought against their expenses being made public, but they lost and the British public were recently made painfully aware of where a large slice of their hard-earned tax was going . . . and it was not pretty.

Politicians need to wake up and realise who put them where they are. They have a tough job to do and should be paid accordingly, but they should be role models of integrity and service for the future generations--and it has to start with reforming the expenses system. There are no hard and fast rules about how to solve this problem but honesty and openness is a very good place to start.

Tags

Expenses, Political, Political Values, Politician, Politics, Scandal

Meet the author

author avatar Assured Angel
Talented and experienced freelance writer/ businesswoman with a legal background whose engaging, confident but professional attitude is reflected in her writing.
I have also written extensively (over 100 articles) and continue to do soon many subj...(more)

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Comments

author avatar drelayaraja
26th Jun 2010 (#)

Oh my god thats a huge amount.... Nice article :)

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author avatar C. Michael Davis
28th Jun 2010 (#)

Sounds a lot like America.
Well expressed. It was this same type government management that led to the war with America in 1776.

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