According to IPSA, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, MPs could receive a £3,000 salary boost this financial year. But is this really fair considering that poverty in the UK is at its highest in recent years?
This increase is in line with the rise in public sector salaries across the board, and it’s a calculation which happens each year in order to keep MPs’ salaries moving with the rest of the public sector. This process is important because it positions the role of an MP as a job just like any other. Without it, it would appear that MPs are not facing the same economic challenges that the country is.
It is also the case that if MPs have a decent salary, there is more incentive for people to try to become an MP, which in turn improves the democratic process. If MPs’ salaries were considerably lower than they are today, it could potentially risk making parliament exclusively for people who already feel financially comfortable. This would not keep our legislature diverse or representative.
Whilst it is not out of the blue that MPs’ salaries are up for a rise, it comes at a questionable time. Many people have been made redundant and are subsequently in more poverty than they have ever faced in their lives. This year, between April and June, 100,000 people used food banks for the first time. On 14 September, The Guardian reported that extreme poverty ‘will double by Christmas’ because of Covid-19. With the extent to which poverty and financial insecurity is on the rise, it seems insulting and inconsiderate that MPs might receive a pay rise.
On top of this, many businesses are struggling to stay alive. Liverpool, the first area to be placed under a Tier 3 restriction prior to the national lockdown, has seen too many independents temporarily or permanently close. Cafe Tabac on Bold Street is one of those, which, on 14 October, closed its doors temporarily, reminding people that they had been trading “for over 40 years”. For others it is worse, such as Bread and Butter on Hope Street, which announced its permanent closure ten weeks ago.
Bearing this in mind, it does suddenly feel ridiculous and overly generous that MPs, who already receive an incredibly comfortable salary of £81,932 (well above the UK average of £29,009), are about to receive an extra £3,000 each from public funds.
Thankfully, it is not unusual that people are confused and outraged by this new suggestion. Backlash has been widespread, even amongst MPs themselves. Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, the MP for Tooting, is very much against this proposal. She tweeted, “This isn’t right. Millions face job uncertainty and to give us MPs a pay rise now just sends the wrong message and highlights the economic divide in our country”. She has said that if she cannot reject the extra money, she will donate it straight to charity.
Sir Keir Starmer also disagrees with the potential pay rise. On LBC Radio he stated, “This year of all years we shouldn’t have it,” and “That money, if it’s available, should be spent on key workers – those who have been on the frontline through this pandemic.”
This is an honourable move from two people who have been offered a generous salary increase, especially considering the financial situation this year.
One final issue with this IPSA calculation is that it is not transparent. If it is the case that the £3,000 rise has been calculated in line with other public sector pay rises, then it does not state anywhere which public sector salaries have risen and by how much.
Furthermore, the current suggestion of the extra £3,000 puts MPs’ salary rises above inflation, with a 3.1% increase in pay in comparison to the 1.8% inflation rise. Therefore, without the explanation of where other public sector pay has risen, it is simply unclear why, even if a raise is in accord, it is one as large as £3,000 a year. This could be seen as hypocritical, especially as public sector wages do not always increase as seamlessly as those of MPs. IPSA is independent from parliament, and therefore MPs do not have a say on their salaries, but in April this year a story resurfaced from three years ago of MP’s cheering when they voted down a bill to give nurses a raise. The fact that this has not been revisited, and is seemingly three years overdue, does suggest a double standard.
All in all, whilst it is important to monitor the salaries of MPs, this is not the time or year in which they deserve or should get an increase in their pay.
Image credit: Arianna Emmeline Rizzi