MPs say expenses too complicated

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Indy Politics

The Commons authorities face mutiny today as MPs of all parties condemn their new expenses system as fiendishly complicated, bureaucratic and a waste of public money.

They say the new regime, designed to help restore Westminster's shattered reputation, has created misery for MPs and their staff.

Backbenchers from across the political spectrum are lining up to condemn the operation of the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). In a move to assuage their anger, Ipsa will today announce extra help for MPs to cope with the system.

They complain about the failure to answer the helpline set up to advise MPs on claims, that the new rules on allowances are "impenetrable" and the online system for processing claims is almost impossible to operate and prone to crashing.

David Winnick, the veteran Labour MP who will lead a debate today on Ipsa, will call on its chiefs to "get a grip" on a system that is rapidly becoming discredited.

He said the rules for claims were so "difficult and complex" that MPs were being reduced to despair and forced to use their own savings to pay staff.

The Commons is awash with anecdotes of the problems with the new system. One Labour MP is said to have borrowed £10,000 to pay staff and meet office running costs while another was reduced to tears explaining to Ipsa staff her problems in making a claim.

Feelings have run so high that Nigel Gooding, the organisation's interim operations director, resigned last week for the sake of his "health and sanity".

An Ipsa spokesman said it had responded to 2,500 telephone calls and 2,000 emails but welcomed advice on improving its service. He insisted the computer system was easy to navigate and had not encountered problems with crashing.