Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Reasonable and essential expenses.

Mrs Rigby wants MPs to show exactly what they've successfully claimed, and been given, by the fees office. She wants them to do it voluntarily, and to do it soon.

Mrs R doesn't want to see "redacted" lists, she wants to see exactly where her and Mr Rigby's money is, and has been, going.

You see, Mrs R got a bit annoyed after she followed Iain Dale's link and listened to Lembit Opik on the radio. She's sorry to single him out and write his name here for all to see, but in amongst all the news items about expenses this one struck a chord. He spent, and claimed, £700 for a television for his "second home". He'd tried to claim £2,500 for a presumably bigger and better one. The higher claim was rejected, so he bought it anyway - out of his own pocket - and put that television in his "main" home. That means he spent £3,200 on a pair of televisions, and got £700 back. Mrs R will concentrate on this £700 which was paid out by the fees office.

Using Jacqui Smith's "Court of Public Opinion", Mrs Rigby rules that this cost is unreasonable. There are two reasons she can think of right now.

1) Mrs Rigby knows that somebody earning minimum wage (£5.73 an hour) would have to work more than three 40-hour weeks to take home more than £700. (On National Minimum Wage somebody who works for 40 hours a week, excluding meal breaks, earns £11,918.40 - before national insurance and income tax deductions.) She wants to know why their taxes should buy an well-paid public servant's spare television.

2) Mr and Mrs Rigby can't afford to spend £700 on a single television for their only home. She's a bit irritated that any MP thinks it's okay to take the Rigby family's taxes and spend them so indiscriminately on themselves. She thinks a cheap television from a supermarket or electrical chain store is just as good for watching the news - if watching the news is why a television is "essential".

Mrs Rigby doesn't think expensive televisions are any more "reasonable", or essential, for an MP to do their job than cutting their grass.

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