Since reports first appeared that there has been an increase to MPs' Office Costs Budgets during the coronavirus outbreak, there has been misinformation spread online as to why the decision was taken and how the money was allocated. Here are some responses to such claims to provide reassurance that MPs are not exploiting the situation and that the money will be used in a strictly appropriate manner.
Myth – MPs have given themselves an extra £10K.
Fact – IPSA, the independent body responsible for deciding MPs' pay, staffing salaries and office costs, unilaterally decided to allocate funds to cope with the unexpected additional expenditure due to coronavirus by raising MPs' budget allowance. IPSA is a non-political organisation and MPs do not vote on their pay or set budgets for costs. The increase is to allow for the purchase of equipment so MPs' staff are able to work from home effectively to support constituents during the outbreak.
Myth – MPs have been given £10K to work from home.
Fact – An additional £10K has been allocated to the Office Costs budget to cover unexpected expenditure over the year from March 2020 to 2021. All expenditure has to be supported by receipts and all the details of money used will be published for public scrutiny. Any expenditure has to be accompanied by an explanation of it use. It is a contingency and it is up to MPs to justify usage.
Myth – MPs can spend the £10K in whatever way they wish.
Fact – MPs have discretion on usage, but it has to be justified and evidence must be provided for its use. MPs' offices in Westminster and often in the constituency have been closed and staff are required to work from home, so expenditure is required for the purchase of laptops, printers, furniture and other items for staff. In addition, only communications to the electorate on a strictly non-party political nature can be funded.
Myth – MPs' workload has reduced following the lockdown.
Fact – The workload for MPs has doubled as a result of constituents requesting assistance on a wide variety of topics related to coronavirus. The budget increase will help to ensure MPs' staff are equipped to respond effectively to casework when working from home so that constituents remain fully supported during the outbreak.