Unions in uproar as MPs set to get big rise in allowances

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Indy Politics

MPs may be given fresh increases in cash allowances to pay for office and staff costs, just over a year after they awarded themselves a £34,000 rise in pay and expenses.

MPs may be given fresh increases in cash allowances to pay for office and staff costs, just over a year after they awarded themselves a £34,000 rise in pay and expenses.

Unions expressed anger yesterday after a memo sent to all MPs proposed further hikes in office allowances, and suggested extra financial support for MPs with heavy constituency workloads. On top of their pay, MPs are each currently entitled to claim allowances of more than £100,000, including up to £72,310 for staffing costs in Westminster and their constituencies and £18,234 for incidental expenses and other costs. Another £19,722 a year is already paid to meet exceptional costs such as accommodation bills.

The review into allowances comes after an inflation-busting pay rise agreed by MPs barely 16 months ago took their salaries from £48,371 to £52,118.

The consultation asks "whether these cash limits are generally sufficient to meet members' legitimate expenses", and asks for views on the "possible case for special measures to help members who have a particularly high caseload".

The letter, from Archie Cameron, director of operations at the House of Commons, also asks for views on payments for new MPs who face one-off costs.

Ministers believe allowances are already generous after they were substantially increased by MPs last summer.

Commons officials took the unusual step of publishing the letter and denying that an increase in allowances was planned. They insisted that allowances "do not end up in MPs' pockets", saying there was a strict divide between MPs' pay and payments for office costs.

But John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union, said: "This is going to be greeted with fury by millions of public-sector workers. At a time when public sector pay is being nailed to the floor, the allowances for members of Parliament seem to be going through the roof. It's to be hoped that those members of Parliament who accept pay increases will show some generosity to firemen, NHS staff and local government workers when the time comes."

Management consultants have been employed to review MPs' allowances, which fund researchers and office costs. The review, agreed when MPs voted to increase pay and expenses last year, covers allowances which are paid to cover the cost of MPs' constituency and Westminster offices. Additional money is paid to cover travel between Westminster and constituencies.

Paul Tyler, the Liberal Democrat shadow Leader of the House, said additional allowances should cover only a handful of MPs, such as those dealing with a huge number of inquiries from asylum-seekers.

In the letter to MPs, Mr Cameron said consultants had been commissioned "to undertake an independent review of the new system". He said MPs should comment on "possible measures, including budgetary flexibilities, to help members, particularly new members, meet significant unforeseen and/or one-off spend."

MPs backed the package of increased benefits last year after Robin Cook, the Leader of the Commons, told them not to "set too low a value on their worth".