IPSA Nice Job If You Can Get It!

Posted on June 10th, 2015 by

Whilst IPSA are proposing a 10% payrise for MPs, we take a look at exactly who IPSA are, and what this means to the taxpayers.  It’s not only the general public opposing this, – over 375,000 people have signed a petition – even David Cameron stated it is “unacceptable”. 

What Austerity?

Earlier this week, someone asked me who employs IPSA , the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, who have recently proposed a 10% pay-rise for MPs.

The question was the sort with an exclamation mark after it and was uttered at high volume – probably because of the “austere” situation into which the pay-hike announcement had been dropped… and the fact that the questioner is a seasoned Procurement professional who had an understandable “What’s wrong with this picture!” reaction to such contradictory spending logic.

The exasperation is nothing new. IPSA has been criticized publicly by many MPs, including David Cameron, who not so long ago told IPSA to “get a grip on what you are doing and do it fast!” This was in the context of reportedly high running costs, the inability of MPs to get through on the IPSA helpline, emails and letters going largely unanswered, and the length of time taken to reimburse expenses.

Houses of Parliament

Nice timing!

Now the government has written to IPSA to underline concerns over the decision to increase MPs’ pay by £6,700 a year, to £74,000 from the end of June – right after confirmation from George Osborne of a further “savings” push. The consultation document issued by IPSA on Tuesday claims that, owing to cuts in pensions and expenses (such as a ban on claiming for evening meals), the overall package of changes would not cost taxpayers “a penny more.”

Which reminds me: the answer to who employs IPSA is, of course: we do. Taxpayers fund the body – “Regulator” is the usual title – which was set up by Parliament in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, under the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act of 2010. IPSA was originally given the remit to establish independent regulation of MPs’ business costs – and, subsequently, pay and pensions.

What are we paying?

In the 2015 elections, 650 MPs got elected. Average salary is £67,060, so the total wage bill is £4,358,900. A 10% rise for each one adds up to an extra £435,890 for the tax-payer to find at IPSA’s behest. IPSA itself is big on “transparency”, so I was able to add up published details of their annual spend on contractors over £25,000 per service (itemised as Accommodation, IT and so on); and that, coincidentally, comes to £4,923,300.

Add in the wage bill for IPSA management (£780,000 in the last year on roles including Board member, Chief Executive, Director of Policy and Communications, Director of Operations, Compliance Officer, Director of People, Performance and Pay) and we get to a grand total of £5,703, 300 shelled out on an arguably unnecessary overhead – we are, after all, in deflation – whose key contribution appears to have been a recommendation that we pay our MPs another £435,890 they don’t actually want from a team whose other services they continually complain about! That’s £6,139,190 in all going astray, as far as I can see.

Image courtesy of  www.seniorplanning.org

Role of IPSA

The full job description includes administering and regulating MPs’ expenses, and paying their salaries and their staff. They also manage and validate 10,000 expense claims a month then review them with post-payment evidence checks and reviews of the reviews when challenged.

They then publish details of MPs’ expenses, offer MPs a range of support services (answering telephone calls and emails – not according to the MPs themselves, as above – training in the use of the online expenses system) and operate a public information telephone line, as well as answering written Parliamentary Questions from MPs. As a public sector organisation they also answer Freedom of Information requests, publish accounts and maintain legislative compliance.

Who are IPSA? Well, a check on IPSA website reveals that the Regulators comprise a lawyer who helped establish the Healthcare Commission; another lawyer and member of the Parole Board; someone who sits on various NHS trust boards and was previously a strategy partner at Accenture; another serial NHS boarder and former audit partner for Ernst & Young; a retired MP and current member of the advisory board of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman; and a senior civil servant who helped create the former adult basic skills strategy, Skills for Life.

Does this represent value for money…?