EXCL Parliamentary watchdogs mull U-turn on MPs' staff pay after outrage
Parliamentary watchdogs could be on the verge of an embarrassing climbdown after they sparked outrage over pay rises for MPs' staff, PoliticsHome can reveal.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority is discussing at an all-day board meeting today whether or not a pay hike for workers should be further increased.
More than 160 MPs from across the political divide wrote to the parliamentary watchdog to complain after their workers were handed a below-inflation rise.
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.
Ipsa confirmed to PoliticsHome that the issue was on the agenda for the scheduled board meeting, which is taking place throughout today.
It first revealed its plans in a letter to Labour MP Tracy Brabin, after she raised a point of order in the Commons complaining about the difference in pay rise between MPs and their staff.
Ipsa chief executive Marcel Boo told her last Thursday: “Ipsa's board is meeting next week to discuss this issue, including your views.”
Batley and Spen MP Ms Brabin told PoliticsHome: “The staff of MPs are committed and work extremely hard. At a time when demand for support is rising and legislation is getting more complex, they thoroughly deserve a decent pay rise.
“I’m glad Ipsa have committed to discuss their decision again – and in my opinion need to change their minds. I know many MPs, staff themselves and staff trade unions are committed to making sure budgets are increased so staff can be treated with respect, I hope Ipsa are listening.”
Labour MP Gareth Snell, who co-ordinated the letter to Ipsa earlier this month, told PoliticsHome: "Our staff are the lifeblood of our thriving democracy and are all to often the port of last resort for desperate constituents.
"A below inflation increase is unfair and I would urge Ipsa to set an example by giving our staff the pay award they deserve."
Max Freedman, the chair of the Unite parliamentary staff branch, said workers had been "treated with contempt throughout the process and the lack of consultation is an insult".
He added: "Increasing MPs’ pay while snubbing the hard-work of the staff is simply unacceptable. We urge the Ipsa board to take this opportunity to think again and discuss this with staff representatives.”
In the letter to Ipsa chair Ruth Evans, sent on 1 March, the MPs from five different parties demanded a rethink.
“We do not believe a 1.5% increase is a fair uplift for our hardworking staff and nor do we believe the staffing budget reflects the needs of our constituents in accessing the service they deserve,” they said.
“We would urge you to reconsider the increases to our staffing budgets so that we can give our staff the pay awards they deserve for the work that they do, for us and our communities.”
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.