Merryn's Blog

Where do politicians find the time to do their expenses?

Most people I know have trouble keeping their expenses up to date, even if it’s just the odd taxi receipt. But these guys were finding creative ways to do everything from playing the capital gains tax rules, to making sure they were maximising their food allowances as best they could.

MPs' expenses were in the news again yesterday. Andrew Dismore became the second member of the Committee on Standards and Privileges (the ones that are meant to govern the conduct of MPs) to be pulled up by The Telegraph for flipping his second home allowance, among other things.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Mr Dismore's case (he tells his local paper that the decision to change his second-home designation actually cost him money in the longer run), it reminded me of the one thing that baffled me more than anything else about the MPs' expenses shenanigans in general. Where did they find the time to do all this paperwork?

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Most people I know have trouble keeping their expenses up to date, even if it's just the odd taxi receipt. But these guys were finding creative ways to do everything from playing the capital gains tax rules, to making sure they were maximising their food allowances as best they could. When you look at the way some of them made sure they used their expenses to the limit, you have to admire the budgeting, financial acumen and sheer dedication that must have gone into milking the system.

Think of all the time we could free up for our MPs if we scrapped expenses altogether and just gave them a flat salary (and Labour MP Chris Mullin has some very sensible suggestions on this point in today's Times. Maybe then we wouldn't have to employ quite so many of them.

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