IPSA feels the lash

It is wrong to imagine that the House of Commons is awash with leadership scuttlebutts.  For most MPs, the future of the left is a subject that hardly comes up.

It is the war between MPs of all parties and the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which takes up most time in the tea room.

A particularly amusing salvo is reproduced below.  The MP in question blind copied his email to all other MPs.  A move akin, in information management terms, to taking out a full page advertisement in the Times.  Notwithstanding which, we have withheld his name, in a spirit of restraint and discretion.

To: ‘xxxx@parliamentarystandards.org.uk

Subject: URGENT Re. May salary payment – to Nigel Gooding, Director of Operations – from xxx xxxxxx MP

Dear Mr Gooding

I am sending you this e-mail urgently in case it is helpful to raise a further urgent issue with you at IPSA – it would, though, also be helpful if we had a direct e-mail address for you.

I came in early today as, like many MPs, I am now moving office. I have, however, had to interrupt this before returning to my constituency today to deal with this payroll matter.

This is on top of grappling with the implications of the pensions issue for staff (an email to IPSA over this has still not been answered) and that of cessation of ‘direct payments’ for the running of my office.

I will write shortly over ‘direct payments’, when I have time – particularly affecting use of the Banner stationery catalogue – a change which returns parliament to a pre-historic system, which is amateurish, self-defeating and will no doubt result in poorer value in due course, through higher prices, to the taxpayer.

Suffice it to say now that, as I am already over my overdraft limit, having had to finance the replacement of the entire roof on my place in London, I have had to put a freeze on the ordering of even essential stationery supplies (such as print cartridges), as I cannot pay for them and then wait for IPSA to reimburse at some stage in a month or more’s time.

I have just received your letter regarding payment of my May salary, enclosing a cheque for £2,290-06.

This set a number of further alarm bells ringing:

1) The cheque seemed to be for much lower amount of monthly salary. As a result of a call to IPSA’s Payroll Department, I now understand it covers the period from 7th May, with the Department of Resources responsible for the first week to the election. Your letter does not explain this and to split the month between two administrations smacks of poor transition arrangements and bureaucracy gone mad.

2) Your letter states that when I was re-elected the Returning Officer provided me with ‘an information pack which contained a ‘New and Returning Member Details’ form issued jointly by the House of Commons and IPSA’. This is incorrect. This did not happen and this is the first time I have seen this form.

3) Your letter also states ‘in the last couple of days we have e-mailed you asking for return of your completed form’, citing lack of response ‘despite these many efforts’. I have seen some correspondence back and forth with IPSA of late, as the PLP Chair valiantly tries to take up many issues with you, but no such specific reminder e-mail.

4) In addition to bank and personal details already held by the Department of Resources, the form asks for a copy of my passport or birth certificate to prove my date of birth. Why that is necessary, I do not know. It does mean, though, I cannot sort this form out today with your team before I go away.

5) More importantly immediately, as I have used my overdraft limit and your cheque will take some days to clear, next Tuesday my mortgage payment will bounce, causing me embarrassment and further charges.

Why IPSA could not simply take the details of re-elected MPs’ bank accounts from the Department of Resources and remit salary directly, as usual, is also simply beyond me. My details have not changed, and you could easily have said in your letter IPSA would continue to use these unless notified otherwise, saving us and yourselves all this aggravation.

As well as dealing with all these IPSA issues, we clearly have constituency and parliamentary reponsibilities to fulfil, as well as even more form-filling with election expense returns. All these issues with IPSA are, frankly, hampering the proper exercise of our professional responsibilities – as well as statutory ones, with election returns – and it is hard to see, frankly, how IPSA could have got off to a worse start.

A transition like this would not happen in any well-run business or other public body and it does not augur well for the reputation of Parliament that this is happening to us.

Kind regards and yours sincerely

Xxx xxxxxx MP

NB I would also be grateful if you could advise me who best to approach to clear up other issues with the payslip and amount you have sent – for instance, though I understand IPSA is paying salary for only 17 working days in May, thetotal tax you have deducted is greater than is usual for the whole calendar month. Sorting this out will mean yet more work for IPSA and individual MPs and I would be grateful if you could look into this and arrange for an explanation for me andany other MPs in a similar position, asking similar questions.


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2 Responses to “IPSA feels the lash”

  1. “A transition like this would not happen in any well run business or other public body”. In public bodies oh yes it would, and does, every single day and far too frequently. It’s the first time I’ve heard of them and yet I know IPSA so well I can almost smell them. It takes you to work for a body like that in order to recognise them and understand their raison d’etre.

    It’s madness that our MP’s have to deal with bureaucratic nonsense like this when they should be getting to grips with delivering results for their constituents. Less paranoia about, and better overall wages and allowances for, our MP’s needed here, not the intervention of the overtly autocratic, belligerent IPSA, whoever they are when they’re at home.

  2. Mike says:

    I’ve now had (second-hand) experience of this and couldn’t agree more. Part of my job involves advising people who have got in a desperate position because of couldn’t-give-a-shit jobsworths in the banking system, and sometimes sadly in the immigration system, and it seems the same attitude now prevails among the people who are organising the basic financial functioning of British democracy.

    It’s important to have some kind of independent oversight of MPs’ expenses, but not by these people. Parliament is there to represent people and can’t function with bureaucrats or bankers. A couple of judges or barristers with some expertise in finance law could do in their spare time, for an honorarium, what all the no doubt very highly paid bureaucrats of the IPSA take all day to do – and they could do it much better.

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