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Expenses

MPs allowances are a little complicated, as they consist of various separate components, which are listed here.

MP SALARY

MPs were, until recently, able to set their own salaries. This changed in 2008, when salaries came under the control of the Senior Salaries Review Board, which also sets salaries for judges and senior civil servants. Nonetheless, MPs have kept increases in their salaries at or below inflation for the past decade or so.

ADDITIONAL COSTS ALLOWANCE

This is otherwise known as the 'second homes allowance' and is designed to meet the cost to MPs - other than those within commuting distance - of living in London while Parliament is sitting.

When Daniel was elected as an MP in 2005, he rented a small flat about 10 minutes' walk from the Palace of Westminster. He has therefore never claimed for mortgage payments and has only paid rent and other costs of setting up and running the flat in London.

In 2008 he decided to share his flat with a fellow MP, which more or less halved the cost of living in London for both of them.

However, in 2009 he decided to make further savings by giving up his flat. He now rents a room on the night he needs to stay in London - usually Monday to Wednesday night as he typically takes the train to London on a Monday morning and back to Shrewsbury on a Thursday evening.

Daniel believes that this is the most transparent option to take, as the costs are strictly rent of the room and does not include anything even slightly controversial such as fittings or services. However, Daniel is aware this option would not be suitable for some MPs with different family commitments and does not condemn his colleagues who have a genuine need for a proper second home in London.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE AND OFFICE EXPENSES ALLOWANCE

This is the general budget for MPs to run their offices. Many members of the public do not realise that MPs are not given any of the resources to run their offices, either in the House of Commons or in their Constituency. They have to buy all their own equipment, including computers and telephones, as well as all the consumables such as paper, envelopes and stamps. They also have to pay all the bills, such as rent of the Constituency Office, electricity, water and telephone.

STAFFING ALLOWANCE

This allowance pays all the staff who work for Daniel in the Constituency and in Westminster and the figure quoted includes employers' National Insurance contributions. Most of the staff are based in the Constituency and carry out 'casework', which means dealing with Constituents' letters, emails, telephone calls and researching and addressing the problems and issues that they raise with Daniel.

All staff are paid according to official House of Commons pay scales, which are published, and they have official House of Commons contracts of employment.

Daniel does not now employ any member of his family. He did employ his wife, Kate, as Office Manager from 2007 to 2009. This was a part time role which she held while their daughter was very young and she has now left to pursue her own career as a Management Accountant. During the two years Kate worked in the Constituency Office, she worked very hard and ran a very efficient office, took on large volumes of Constituency casework and also was able to oversee the running of the Westminster Office.

Daniel also makes use of volunteers, work experience students and interns, whose contribution is greatly valued and who do a lot of work for Daniel and his Constituents. As well as school students on work experience, interns work in the Constituency and Westminster Offices for between two and twelve months, assisting the permanent staff with research and project work. Interns are often university students, or recent graduates, who are looking for work experience in the field of politics. Indeed politics students both from the UK and abroad often work for an MP for a few months as part of their degree course.

It would, of course, be possible to reduce the costs by employing fewer staff, but - unlike some MPs - Daniel believes he is there to serve his Constituents. It would simply be impossible to deal with all the correspondence and issues that are brought to him by his Constituents without the assistance of his staff. Daniel has recently had an average of five members of staff and three or four interns, split between London and Shrewsbury, although some of these are part time.

 

COMMUNICATION ALLOWANCE

This allowance was introduced in April 2007 specifically to allow MPs to communicate with their Constituents about the work they do and the services they offer.

Daniel has used this allowance to distribute newsletters - an expensive exercise with over 40,000 households to deliver to - and to run his website. There are strict rules to ensure that anything produced under the Communications Allowance is strictly non party political and all items have to be approved by the House of Commons before distribution.

The Leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, has pledged to abolish this allowance after the next General Election.

TRAVEL EXPENSES

MPs are permitted to claim back the cost of travel while on Parliamentary and Constituency business. For Daniel, this is mostly the cost of return train fares to London each week.