By Bethany Dawson
This week, The Times reported that each MP was going to be getting an additional £10,000 “to support them while they work from home”. This is on top of their existing administrative budget of roughly £26,000.
When this story was released on the 9th of April, there was outrage and concern, with many people suggesting – both in the mainstream media and on social media – that MPs were effectively getting a pay rise whilst NHS frontline staff experience woefully low pay.
MPs are not getting a raise, they are getting extra budget.
This budget – provided by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – is primarily to adapt the home working stations of MPs and their staff. This extra budget is to cover the necessary adaptations needed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic for their constituents; be this the cost of electricity and heating bills, or new printers and computers.
A caseworker for a Labour MP explained to Incite that “the 10k is very necessary and very helpful, especially for caseworkers in more rural constituencies. It is being misrepresented by the press.”
The additional money comes in the form of the cap on the current office budget expenses being lifted, not of a lump sum going into MPs’ bank accounts.
This means that MPs cannot donate this money or reallocate it to areas outside of administrative resources, as has been suggested.
One parliamentary staffer further explained to Incite that “it’s a contingency to make sure that no vulnerable constituents fall through the gaps due to lockdown restrictions on MP’s staff.” They also explained that “it’s not possible to access [the] parliamentary network on normal computers” and therefore those working for MPs will need parliamentary computers at their own home, which will incur additional costs.
This amount of money is to provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure all constituents of all MPs can receive the support they need, without being blocked by the current obstacles put forth by Covid-19.
The Times reported that this budgetary increase will be available until March 2021.
So, why was this story misleading exactly?
In short, this story was reflected in a way that showed MPs were getting a raise, or a bonus, of £10,000. Rather, the cap on the administrative budget has been extended by an additional £10k to be used during this time of crisis.
MPs are not getting a really good consolation prize for serving during a pandemic, they’re getting access to necessary additional resources.