In what amounts to a scam, MPs are renting office space and secretarial services from constituency offices of their own party.
An analysis of annual accounts from hundreds of local constituency parties has revealed that the Lib Dems in Mr Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam constituency reported that the Deputy Prime Minister paid them £8,700 for “office space sublet to MP” in 2012, the latest year for which figures are available. Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s contribution to his local Conservative Association in Chingford was £19,474 “to cover costs in providing for his constituency duties”, while in Epsom and Ewell, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s local party recorded £3,693 in “payments from MP for non-political services”.
The ISPA are targeting the practices of MPs after the expenses scandal in 2009. As part of the process of looking into the more obscure practices of MPs, the ISPA are forcing MPs to produce an independent valuation of local party offices to ensure they are not paying higher than market value for office space and secretarial services.
A spokesman for the ISPA told the Independent “In the longer term, we are giving thought to a system in which the largest local authority within each constituency would provide an MP’s office and basic equipment, with a standard reimbursement from IPSA.”
Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said “There is something rather unseemly about MPs paying for office space or other facilities within the premises of their own local political party or association: it blurs the lines between their parliamentary duties and party political activities in a way that is very difficult to police.”
A spokesman for the pressure group Unlock Democracy said the group was concerned about the long-term viability of funding parties at a local level. But he added “We agree that the current set-up is unsatisfactory, not simply because it gives the impression of back-door funding for parties but because it also provides the incumbent MP’s party an unfair advantage over their rivals.”
It should come as no surprise that MPs try to squeeze every last penny from the taxpayer’s coffers after the disgraceful revelations of the expenses scandal in 2009. But it seems that they have found other little scams to line their own pockets. We have heard very little about the outcomes of ‘investigations’ into some more prominent MPs, such as Maria Miller. It all seems to have gone rather hush-hush.