Letter: Academic expenses

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The Independent Online
Sir: Sir John Hunt (letters, 21 July) writes that the increase in MPs' secretarial allowance is 'reimbursement of actual expenditure', as if this makes it less outrageous. Many others would forego a salary rise if their working lives were made a little bit easier by an increase in expenses.

I am an academic. Just like an MP, I have to spend money in order to do my job properly. However, to be allowed to 'incur expenses', I have to apply in the Science and Engineering Research Council lottery, where only one in five grants rated as 'at the forefront of UK and world science' is funded. If I fail to attract about pounds 30,000 a year of research income, then not only am I unable to do the research part of my job, but the income of my department falls as well.

As with schoolteachers, nurses, doctors and others, I would have no trouble in justifying a 40 per cent increase in the expenditure incurred in my work. It would make my life less fraught and might make me feel less bitter about the 2 per cent reduction in my pay deemed appropriate by the Government.

Yours sincerely,

MICHAEL de PODESTA

Birkbeck College

University of London

London, WC1

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