Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Expenses and Accountability.

Expenses are always an interesting affair, particularly in regards to our elected officials. And it has now been smuggled through Westminster that MP's expenses should be exempt from scrutiny.

This is a complete and utter disgrace. MP's expenses should be completely documented and open to all members of the public so that we can see where public money is being spent. Listing under general headings and not requiring documentation for monies claimed is an insult to the electorate and severely damages public trust in democracy.

If I want to claim expenses at work I have to provide proof of what I am claiming, and this should be doubly true for MPs and other elected representatives. MSPs already have far more openness in their financial claims and this is the standard that Westminster should be aspiring to, rather than seeking to cover the details of what is claimed.

Part of the reason for the clandestine nature is that MPs are claiming for items and services for which it is hard to see any justification. Despite protestations to the contrary, MPs are already paid a very generous salary for their time and work. This is not to detract from the intensity and difficulty of the work that MPs do and it is right that they be covered for the legitimate expenses of their work. However, paying for furniture and home improvements is hard to justify for someone who is already earning over £60k.

I admit that I am idealistic, but political representation is not a job. It is a vocation, a call to serve the public and make a difference to the world. When my Papa served on the council for years, it was in a voluntary capacity. He and his colleagues, of different political stripes, served their communities in their spare time, working full time to support their families and then attending meetings in the evening.

I'm not recommending a return to this situation - I think the provision of a wage is important in order to open political representation to a wider range of people. However, a return to the ethos of that age would be welcome. Politicians serve at the public's pleasure not in their own right. They are public servants and this must be foremost in their minds and work. That is why I think of political representation as a vocation - it is not just a job, but rather a life that people feel called to, and which is bigger than just them.

MPs must, for the good of democracy, make all expenses open and transparent. The very provision of expenses must be reviewed urgently so that they expenses claimable are restricted to those required for the service of the electorate. If the Government is failing in this regard, then individual MPs must take the initiative and start to publish their own expenses in full.

More details about this campaign here. Send a letter to your MP, make clear your disgust and help restore accountability in democracy.


Advanced Media Watch said...

Totally agree with you, MP's have to be more transparent when it comes to expenses. If they are to be trusted then more accountability has to be brought in.

subrosa said...

'This is not to detract from the intensity and difficulty of the work that MPs do and it is right that they be covered for the legitimate expenses of their work.'

Perhaps between the 'that' and 'MPs' you could put the word some.

MPs don't work any harder than the average person. Don't flatter them, their egos are big enough!

Isn't it dreadful, in this day and age, that we, the electorate, allow these people to behave in this arrogant way?

Then again, they're all in it for their own ends and turkeys don't vote for Christmas. Just how we insist they begin to respect their voters and be open about expenses I don't know.