MPs allowed to claim extra £10,000 in expenses to help them & staff work from home during coronavirus crisis – The Sun


PARLIAMENTARY authorities sparked outrage today after offering MPs an extra £10,000 to cover the costs of working from home for them and their staff during the coronavirus crisis.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has issued updated guidance which states every MP can access the additional cash to boost their office budget to pay for things like laptops for staff and electricity.

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In addition, the monthly credit limit for MPs has been increased to £10,000, a 90 day limit on expenses claims has been suspended and rules on the evidence needed for costs to be reimbursed have been relaxed.

The move by the expenses watchdog has been described as 'crude' by critics amid concerns that the updated system and extra cash could be open to abuse.

Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, hit out at the decision and said: "It seems to me a very crude approach.

"I think the public may be slightly puzzled as to why what looks like a generous payment of this nature has been made without first doing a bit more research into what the actual costs are."

And James Roberts, political director of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "While it's reasonable for MPs' staff to have access to the equipment they need to work from home during this crisis, politicians should take care to use the cash properly and avoid it being seen as a personal equipment slush fund."

But parliamentary staffers hit back at the criticism, saying it enabled them to work from home during the crisis.

Alice Hopkins, a Conservative Parliamentary worker tweeted: “MPs & staff based in Westminster need Parliament IT equipment to be able to do their work securely from home.”

She added that “not a penny will go to MPs” but the backlash was filling staffers' inboxes with “ill informed emails distracting us from emergency casework.”

She added: “My bosses & colleagues are working round the clock everyday to help 100s of constituents getting in touch.

“The people who are furious that we can work securely at home will also expect immediate help if they asked.”

The guidance, published last month, reads: "This is an uncertain and challenging time. Ipsa is committed to supporting MPs and their staff to carry on with their work as far as possible."

In a letter to MPs, Richard Lloyd, the interim chairman of Ipsa, wrote: "We have agreed a series of immediate measures that we hope will provide you with the resources and flexibility to concentrate on your parliamentary duties and support your staff."

Minister James Cleverly added after the story that he would "like to publicly thank my team (and all the others too) for the work that they are doing.

"I know they aren’t the only ones having a tough time but we MPs couldn’t help our constituents properly without them.

"They are helping and working with worried, often vulnerable people on my behalf, who are themselves dealing with unprecedented situations. They are researching, collating, and passing on advice and guidance in a fast changing environment.

"The volume of work has, understandably, increased over the last few weeks and they are working through it with all the additional challenges of working remotely.

"If things are a bit slower than usual, please bear with us as we navigate these uncharted waters. So to my team I say “thank you”."

Labour staffer Amelia-Rose Tighe added: "I’ve had to procure secure laptops for staff to work at home.

"We have never had as many vulnerable people contact us needing help.

"Anyone bashing this- are you expecting staff to travel to work to help constituents or should we just ignore them?

"This money does NOT go in MPs pockets as the headline suggests, it goes into a budget to be spent on running an office. Other businesses are providing laptops for workers to work from home, why should MPs be made to refuse this?"

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