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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Labour MP loses the plot over expenses proposal

Those of us who were astonished at the proposal, which was mooted yesterday that MPs should receive an unconditoinal lump sum allowance instead of claiming expenses with receipts, were less surprised that the idea originated with Newport West MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Flynn.

Mr. Flynn is a man of the highest integrity, with the ability to think outside of the box. His problem, in my view is that his judgement is suspect as to which box he chooses to do his thinking out of.

Paul Flynn believes that the current system is time-consuming and has 'robbed' MPs and their staff of their "most precious possession - time":

He wrote: "Our reputation has sunk from rock bottom to subterranean. Financial scandals have continued in both Houses with toe-curling regularity.

"The public are still convinced that MPs use the system for own ends."

Mr Flynn suggested a new system could be based on an allowance calculated on average expenses, based on MPs' distance from Westminster, and could be paid automatically.

How exactly exemptng MPs from the full and proper scrutiny that any expenses system needs to work effectively will restore public confidence is difficult to understand. They may find the process of reclaiming expenses to be bureaucratic, tedious and mind-numbingly boring but so does everybody else. What makes them so special?

Paul Flynn may accuse me of not understanding the issues, but I have been in the position of being a full time elected official with a busy office, a heavy caseload and many demands on my time. Despite that I made the time to complete expense claims in good order and ensured that they were accompanied by receipts and/or invoices as required by the rules.

I also properly managed my staff, signing off their expense claims and conducting six monthly performance reviews. If MPs are struggling to fit all of this in then perhaps their real need is for time management courses, not special treatment and exemptions from the normal rules of accountabilty and transparency by virtue of a hefty back-door pay rise.

Many many people work in occupations where they too have to claim expenses and work within a necessary bureaucracy to do so. Suggesting that poor pampered MPs are above all of this is no way to win back the public's confidence in the democratic system.
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