The eye-watering amount of coronavirus cash available to MPs proves we’re not ‘all in this together’

Parliament at daytime.
Emily Apple

The government likes to tell us ‘we’re all in this together’. Whether it’s David Cameron’s fated words about austerity or the current coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, it’s a common theme.

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:

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):

Political commentator Rachael Swindon further highlighted:

Meanwhile, one Twitter user exposed the reality for thousands of people caring for disabled people across the country:

Responsible employers?

Not everyone was critical of the decision, though. Money expert Paul Lewis, for example, tweeted that:

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:

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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