It seems that government ministers think they are immune from the ‘austerity’ measures the rest of the population of the UK are being subjected to.
Incredibly, MPs think they are entitled to a pay rise, despite implementing measures which effectively freeze or reduce public sector pay in real terms.
The ‘Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority’ is expected to recommend a massive £10,000 pay rise for MPs, which would be around a 15% increase on basic. In real terms, the total salary package for MPs is in the region of £120,000.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband has stated that he would intervene if MPs salary was increased by any more than 1%, which is the maximum public sector workers will be allowed.
David Cameron has said that MPs must be prepared to lose other benefits if they receive a pay rise.
In the Palace of Westminster, two small toilets used by peers are to undergo refurbishment which is set to cost the taxpayer in the region of £100,000.
According to tender documents the work includes replacing ‘historic oak panelling’, minor demolition work, new decorations, and new sanitary equipment. The work must comply with English Heritage requirements for Grade One listed buildings, which is said to add to the cost.
Spending £100,000 of tax payers money on a more luxurious environment for Lords to park their arses on is not what the public want to hear when the money could be put to better use.
Controversy surrounds the appointment of Ian Livingstone as a minister in the ‘Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS).
Livingstone will be leaving his position as a boss in BT with close to £20 million in shares in the company to take up a position in a government department which oversees the telecoms industry, in which BT competes.
With £20 million in shares, Livingstone will benefit significantly from dividends and interest – which depend on the performance of BT – from his share portfolio.
His additional wealth could be influenced by the policies and actions of the ministerial team of which he will be a member.
According to Livingstone, he will be placing the shares in a ‘blind trust’, which will be managed by those who he has given power of attorney over, and over which he will have no direct management. This is supposed to distance him from any accusation of conflict of interest, but in reality does not prevent him from influencing policies which may benefit him financially. Once he leaves his ministerial position he will regain full control of the shares in BT.
Anne McKechin, a former minister of state at the DTI in Tony Blair’s government, told the Independent “The scale of Ian Livingston’s share-holding is an issue. He is the CEO of BT and there will be virtually no gap between his leaving BT and joining the government. There is valid concern that the Prime Minister has not done enough to convince the public that a conflict of interest will not be a problem.”
There are no real and effective safeguards against Livingstone attempting to influence government policy for his own financial interest.
A former trade minister has also criticised the decision to being Livingstone into the government position, stating that Cameron has failed to offer any form of robust safeguard to address the issue of bringing in Livingstone directly from BT.
It all seems far too cosy a relationship between BT, Livingstone, and Cameron, with some potentially serious risks for other companies who are in competition with BT in the same market.
MPs pay rises, expensive loos for the lords, and a minister with serious personal financial interest in the activities of the department he has been recruited in to just go to show that the government do not consider themselves subject to their own policies.
Cronyism is a massive problem within the current system, where waste and ‘dodgy deals’ are in plain view, and which the government don’t seem to care if anyone notices are not. Brazen selfishness is rife, as though they are trying to pick a chicken carcass for all it is worth before they finally get kicked out of office.
Although these activities are not directly corrupt, the case of MPs being recommended up to a £10,000 pay rise, and the appointment of Livingstone, certainly indicates that underhanded dealing and influence is taking place somewhere behind the scenes.