EXCL MP office staff hit out at Parliament spending watchdog in row over pay
Angry staffers working for MPs across the House of Commons have complained to parliamentary watchdogs in a major row over pay, PoliticsHome can reveal.
They said the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority does not “recognise the value that staff provide” after it emerged their pay will go up at half the rate of MPs.
Salaries for MPs will rise by 2.7% in the coming financial year to £79,468, but the allowance they get to pay their workers will only go up by 1.5% to £166,930 in London and £155,930 elsewhere in the country.
It means the hike for parliamentarians beats the current inflation rate of 1.8% while the rise for their staff falls under it.
In their letter to Ipsa, which has been backed by the Unite branch in Parliament, staff members said they were “extremely disappointed” by a pay increase that “fails to even keep pace with the cost of living”.
And they warned that it failed to recognise the fact that their workload has increased because of Brexit.
They said: “The significant increase in legislative activity as the UK leaves the European Union means that both MPs and Parliamentary staff will be faced with an increasingly significant and complex workload.
“It is absolutely in the national interest that MPs have the staffing capacity to handle this and support them at this critical time.”
They added that constituency casework continues to rise and is likely to worsen in the face of welfare and immigration changes, council cuts and “localised Brexit impacts”.
"This decision, and the fact that IPSA still treats MPs’ staff as office costs rather than employees, clearly highlights that IPSA do not recognise the value that staff provide to Members of Parliament which is incredibly disappointing.”
Workers warned that anything less than a 2.8% rise to staffing budgets would “serve only to increase the pay gap between MPs and their staff and will affect the support received by Parliamentarians at this crucial time”.
'CANNOT BE RIGHT'
Labour MP Kevin Barron, the former chair of the Commons committee on standards, yesterday said he was “very disappointed” by the disparity between elected politicians and their staff.
He tweeted: “I urge them [IPSA] to look again at the budgets as it cannot be right that the gap is so great.”
An Ipsa spokesperson said "a range of evidence and options" are taken into account "including pay policies elsewhere in the public sector" when MP staff budgets are considered.
"The Board also take into account their responsibility to use taxpayers' money responsibly, and therefore decisions on MPs' budgets are made with affordability as a key consideration," they added.
"Members of Parliament are the employers of their staff and decide the exact amount of any pay increases for their staff."
PoliticsHome revealed yesterday that Ipsa chose to keep staff pay rises down to prevent setting “a precedent” for future years.
At a meeting last week, Ipsa chair Ruth Evans was asked why staff pay was not rising at the same rate as MPs', as it had last year.
Questioned on the anomaly, she told the Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority: “The board thought about this very hard.
“Last year we created a parity, which was the first time that had happened, because at that point it was a 1.8% increase.
“We looked at the optics and we felt that, for a whole number of reasons… we should not set a precedent by creating parity again this year because it would lock us in and create an expectation that that parity would be continued in the future.”
Pay rises for MPs are determined by average rises in the public sector, which the Office for National Statistics revealed in December would be 1.7% this year.
They get a pot of money from which they have to pay all their staff, but they can top up worker salaries from other parts of their budgets if they are willing and able to.
Meanwhile, chairs of Commons committees will get a 2.7% increase in the pay they get in addition to their salary, rising from £15,509 to £15,928.