But while millions of workers are suffering as a result of the measures the UK’s taken to combat coronavirus, there’s one group of people who aren’t affected as much as others – MPs. Because as the Times reported, they’re being offered an eye-watering amount of money to help them and their staff to work from home.
Working from home
According to the Times, MPs can claim an extra £10,000 during the pandemic for costs associated with working at home:
The extra budget can be used to buy equipment such as laptops and printers for MPs and their staff, or to cover additional electricity, heating and phone bills. The money, which comes on top of the existing office budget of about £26,000 a year per MP, will be available until March.
And the extra budget has also been spared the usual scrutiny, with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority ‘relaxing rules on evidence’. Meanwhile, the amount MPs can spend on their credit cards in a single transaction is £5,000.
Unsurprisingly, many people were not impressed by this news:
MPs are now allowed to claim an extra £10k in expenses to help them during the pandemic
£10k on top of their £78k a year salary & the existing £26k a year MPs can claim to cover office costs
Meanwhile sick leave is only £95-a-week
This virus is not 'The Great Leveller.'
— The Pileus (@thepileus) April 9, 2020
That’s £6.5 million extra cost for MPs’ personal expenses.
£10K each for new printers, etc cannot be right. This seems like a very wasteful, indulgent splash at the taxpayers’ expense when they can least afford it.https://t.co/E3FhtWvOma
— Mike Galsworthy (@mikegalsworthy) April 9, 2020
Money for MPs but not nurses
On 5 April, health secretary Matt Hancock hit the headlines saying:
now is not the time to discuss a pay rise for nurses
But that doesn’t seem to apply to MPs’ expenses. And as the organisation Nurses United UK pointed out, this extra £10K is being allocated at a time when NHS staff still aren’t getting enough personal protective equipment (PPE):
— Nurses United UK (@nurses_united) April 9, 2020
Political commentator Rachael Swindon further highlighted:
Ten grand? PIP, a benefit received by disabled people, went up by £1.
MPs given extra £10,000 each for home working expenses https://t.co/Cdlb0e3NOG
— Rachael Swindon (@Rachael_Swindon) April 9, 2020
Meanwhile, one Twitter user exposed the reality for thousands of people caring for disabled people across the country:
I just hoisted my daughter out of bed, gave her her meds. I then wheeled my wife in her wheelchair to the bathroom. I then reflected on my 24hr dual care life, my possible job loss, the 1 pound increase to £67pw carers allowance.
Then I read thishttps://t.co/m4NeYirVGz
— ⚫️dan white 🇪🇺🌎♿️🦠 (@Danwhite1972) April 9, 2020
Not everyone was critical of the decision, though. Money expert Paul Lewis, for example, tweeted that:
Don’t complain about this. It is how a good employer should behave https://t.co/jfF30KVl4p
— Paul Lewis (@paullewismoney) April 9, 2020
But this tweet misses an essential point. It’s not parliament being a good employer. It’s taxpayer-funded money being spent on top of the £26k they’re already allocated for office costs. Moreover, it’s not an option for any of the millions of people now working from home who’ll still pay the same levels of tax but now have to pay extra for the day-to-day running costs of having a home office. This isn’t an expense being covered by the government and isn’t an expense most employers can afford to pay.
These were points that many people pointed out to Lewis:
Don’t complain? How much am I allowed to claim for tax relief for my home office? £26 a month – and that’s not a handout, it’s just £5.20 pcm less tax to pay. So excuse me if I remain unimpressed by MP’s noses in the trough again.
— Julie Mountain 🇪🇺 ⚫️ (@JulesMountain) April 9, 2020
If it was fair everyone who has had to order staff to work from home would be paid the same amount and instructed to purchase new laptops etc instead of asking them to use their own
— c crompton (@ccc123abcd) April 9, 2020
Yes. Except that we pay directly for this through our taxes and are therefore entitled to scrutinise, especially in view of the fact that employees in the private sector have not had this privilege.
— Maggie Moo 🐄 #HaveDemocracy (@lesserspottedH) April 9, 2020
Yes, this could be seen as good practice from an employer; but – and it’s a big but – only if this was something the government was making available to all employers whose staff are working from home.
As it is, this is just another example of how we’re not all in this together. Poor people, vulnerable people, and disabled people are already shouldering the heaviest burden of the pandemic. No wonder no one’s celebrating MPs getting an extra £10k.
Featured image via Flickr/Rennett Stowe
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