Cuts to food and trips: MPs to share the public sector pain

The Speaker, John Bercow, last night wrote to MPs pledging extra cuts to House of Commons spending “in the light of increased financial constraints on the public sector”.

He told MPs that “the House of Commons Commission has agreed to cut £12 million from the budget for the House in the current year. This marks the start of a fundamental review of expenditure, which will deliver further savings over the next three years.

The savings to be made this year are 5 per cent more than the Commission originally planned, and will reduce estimated spending for 2010/11 to £219 million. This action follows the Commission’s decision in December 2009, to cut House expenditure by 9% by the end of 2012/13.”

Bercow, like his predecessor Michael Martin, has been adversely criticised for his own expenditure, as was Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine in the early days of the Blair era. Holders of great ceremonial offices, at the best of times, are easy targets.

MPs will be affected by some cuts directly, with £800,000 being cut from the budget for select committee travel this year and a further £500,000 savings being found from raising prices in the Commons’ bars and restaurants.

As Bercow’s letter tells MPs: “this will bring cafeteria prices into line with typical workplace venues and bar prices into line with a competitively-priced high street pub chain. We will consider further cuts to catering subsidies as part of the options for delivering savings over the next three years.”

He is sure that honourable Members will agree that they “need to respond to the economic challenges facing the country and to reduce the cost of the House to the public purse.

“These measures”, the Speaker concludes, “are a first step to reduce the House budget in line with similar reductions taking place elsewhere in the public sector.”

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