Second home expenses boost for MPs

The costs of running and paying for a second home are on the rise. That's why MPs have been given an extra £100 to help them cope.

The cash boost from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) means MPs will see their allowance increased from £20,000 to £20,100 - a +0.5% lift. Deserved?


Extra cash

The sharp rise in energy bills alone means the extra £100 allowance is not going to stretch that far; British Gas hit customers with a +6% hike in November, just before heavier winter consumption got under way. IPSA has also approved a +2.4% rise in expenses MPs can claim for running their offices.

There is a new departure though: IPSA will now make public the names of any MP who becomes a landlord of tenant of another MP. This follows revelations in November that several MPs were sub-letting their second homes to other MPs.

Channel 4 published a list of landlords who are paid taxpayer-funded cash by MPs. The practice is not against the rules - but renting from family members definitely is.

Meanwhile there is understandable scrutiny about any extra expenses for MPs given that the Coalition is pushing through its spare room tax, which will see the poorest hit hardest.

"Working well" - most of the time

IPSA claims that the newly-introduced MPs' Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses is "working well and that only minor adjustments were necessary." The aim of these adjustments, it claims, "is to ensure that public funds are properly spent and accounted for and that MPs have the support they need to perform their parliamentary functions."

Loopholes remain though and some MPs still exploit them. Witness ex farming minister Sir Jim Paice who previously claimed more than £420 a month on mortgage interest payments.

When this practice was outlawed, Paice let his South London flat out and rented another flat, claiming, the Mirror reported, more than £18,000 annually from the taxpayer instead of £5,000.

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Second home expenses boost for MPs

They might think they're masters of the universe. We know they've dobbed the rest of us in it. After lending out recklessly, they are blamed for causing the financial crisis. Even after they had to be bailed out by taxpayers, they still give themselves obscene bonuses.

Have the power to enter your home and seize your possessions. Debt collectors are a form of bailiff-lite. They can 'only' write, phone or visit your home to talk about the debt. Don't bother bringing out the best china.

Last year's heavy snow meant lost parking revenue, as attendants were stopped from handing out as many tickets as normal. Edinburgh Council lost more than £700k in parking revenue in just two weeks. Expect parking wardens to redouble their efforts as they make up for that in the rest of 2011.

Yes, there are honourable exceptions. There are also reasons why these guys have the reputation they do.

Not as venal as some on the list. But some of these guys would persuade their granny to sell for £50,000 less than her home is really worth. Just so they can get a deal done and take their commission. It's always one story with them when you're selling. Another when you're buying.

Not independent, despite what they claim. Until big changes in the law come into effect in the next couple of years, they are paid on commission. So it's in their interest to stuff clients into whichever products pay them the most - it doesn't matter whether the product is any good or not.

These guys will charge you for yawning. But there's no fighting them. They set up the system and know best how to work it.  The ultimate parasites? But then, they earn so much money what do they care what other people think?

It's 6.30pm, the hour when hell gates open for every parent. The phone rings. It turns out to be a gentleman from Bangladesh, selling you phones in indescribably bad English.

Low barriers to entry mean spamming is on the rise. Experts expect 7 trillion spam messages to be sent this year, costing millions in lost productivity and fraud. Internet service providers are among those worst affected. They have been forced to add extra capacity to carry the messages.

An out-of-place figure on your tax return, or big fluctuation from year to year could be enough to prompt a dreaded tax inspection. Since 2009 HM Revenue and Customers have been able to check a wider range of payments than before. Previously they could only look at VAT and employer returns. Now they have the power to inspect income tax, capital gains, PAYE and corporation tax

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