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Friday, 25 November 2011

British MPs' expenses, has the Watchdog reviews on MP’s second home claims become corrupted?

British MPs' expenses, has the Watchdog reviews on MP’s second home claims become corrupted?

Parliament's expenses body is consulting on proposals to now allow British MP’s to keep claiming mortgage interest on their second homes and claim "lump sum" allowances without receipts? The corrupted looking after the corrupted it would be nice for most of England’s people to own just one home or even afford one?

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says it is against both ideas and is simply inviting views.

New MP’s cannot claim for mortgage interest but those elected before 2010 can do so until August 2012.

Ipsa is reviewing the scheme set up in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal.

Many MPs have complained that it is not working properly - and a committee of MP’s has been set up to review the legislation that introduced it.

The main focus of the second annual review by Ipsa relates to staffing, but the mortgage interest and allowance suggestions are among the most controversial.
Second homes

Under the old expenses system British MP’s were able to claim taxpayers' money towards buying their second homes plus anything else that they could get away with?

It was a key issue during the 2009 scandal when most of the British MP’s were accused of renovating properties at England’s taxpayers' expense before selling them on and pocketing large profits.

Scrapping mortgage interest payments and insisting MPs claim to rent properties instead was a key recommendation of a lengthy inquiry into the whole system by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which said MP’s should not expect "to acquire a valuable asset at public expense".

Under Ipsa's rules, MP’s who already owned taxpayer-subsidised second homes were allowed to continue claiming towards mortgage interest for a transitional period - until August 2012, although when they sell the property they have to surrender a share of any rise in value of the property since last summer.

But some have argued that claiming for mortgage interest is actually cheaper for the taxpayer than claiming rent.(MP’s should be put in London Army barracks when in London, then they wouldn’t have to claim rent or need a second homes?)

The consultation document says a previous Ipsa review concluded that the issue was "important for public confidence".

But the body says: "Ipsa's position on this issue has not changed but it is inviting views in this consultation to ascertain whether public opinion has shifted on this issue."

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown raised the idea of MPs getting a flat-rate allowance at the height of the expenses scandal - in a widely criticised video on the Downing Street website. But it was criticised at the time as a payment for MP’s to "turn up and do their jobs".

The issue has resurfaced recently at hearings of the MP’s' committee which is reviewing the legislation which set up Ipsa - the Commons members' expenses committee.

At a recent hearing Conservative MP Priti Patel pointed out that the current London weighting allowance was not controversial - while expenses seemed to be "much more expensive and costly to administer".

The consultation says Ipsa still believes expenses and costs should remain "based on the reimbursement of costs incurred" but adds: "There remains a number of MP’s who believe that there should be a return to lump sum allowances which would, amongst other things, allow MP’s to continue to fund their mortgage interest."

Another issue raised during the consultation is whether rules should be relaxed on strict pay structures for MP’s' staff - allowing them to decide how to split pay between staff within an overall budget - and whether those representing poorer areas should be allowed more staff.

Ipsa says that there is a "discernible trend" - supported by both staff members' views and Ipsa's own payroll data - that an MP's workload is linked to constituencies with a lot of social deprivation - which have more time-consuming cases such as those involving immigration, housing and child welfare issues.

Among its proposals are that while most MP’s will be allowed 3.5 full-time equivalent staff - those in particularly deprived communities should be allowed four. Ipsa notes that this could mean the overall expenses bill goes up by up to £2.1m - if it was extended to the most deprived 25% of constituencies.

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