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IPSA: Parliament Police or Lame Watchdog?

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In the past week, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) afforded to MPs an annual wage of £74,000, a rise of £7,000 from previous years. This, claims IPSA chairman Sir Ian Kennedy, is a “one-off adjustment” to compensate for recent pension reductions and expense restrictions.

However, John Ralfe revealed in the Financial Times that MPs with as little as 14 years’ service will actually be entitled to retirement bonuses worth tens of thousands, with top front bencher payments even hitting the £50,000 mark. Mr Ralfe claims that, between wages and pensions, MPs will now receive £90,000.

The Prime Minister David Cameron will receive £150,000 pa. He opposed the rise but changed his mind when the IPSA ruled it as “justified”. Meanwhile, the SNP leadership have curried favour with the public by directing their MPs to donate their extra thousands. SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson called it “not right for MPs to have a pay-rise in these circumstances.”

Given how the recent budget freezes public sector pay rises at 1%, critics have questioned IPSAs assertion that the 10% increase is proportionate to high-level public servants. The new payment scheme will be backdated to May 2015, thus making the tax year uniform and the bureaucratic transition smoother.

This has not been enough for some MPs. In a letter to the IPSA, former London Stock Exchange executive and Foreign Under-Secretary Tobias Ellwood claimed his pay rise was insufficient enough for him to “watch the pennies”. The Bournemouth East MP, who earns £89,435 pa, was unaware that his correspondence would be public and issued an apology several days later via social media. The post is careful to avoid admissions of a wider issue, but earlier edits of his Facebook post concede that his comments “sadly underlined the perception that MPs are out of touch”.

Tobias Ellwood

Tobias Ellwood

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was launched in 2009 under the Parliamentary Standards Act after eight years of expense scandals. Their commitment to transparency and dramatic reforms have been criticised by many politicians as unfair. In 2012, Commons Speaker John Bercow was accused of attempting to rig an enforced reshuffle of the IPSA board as revenge for expense reductions, i.e. banning claims for second homes. This is the third pay rise to be given to MPs in five years.

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Phillip Mott

Editor 2015-2016 Arts & Culture Editor 2015

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