I realise this is a post which will receive scant sympathy. But its been irritating me ever since I read the article in today's Telegraph which informs us that the Leader of the Liberal Democrats proposes that MPs should not be allowed to use their allowances to buy second homes - particularly since he claimed £23,000 for his own second home last year (according to the Telegraph that is). Lets consider this in a rational, logical way - though I do accept that the levels of inventiveness with which allowances have been used may have taken the issue beyond rational consideration.
Now what seems reasonable? To me its where a politician's constituency is sufficiently far from the relevant 'parliament' to make commuting impractical. In such cases, financial support should be given to help with the additional unavoidable cost. It also seems reasonable to me that a politician living within commuting distance should not be eligible. The total of the financial support should equate to the cheapest way of accessing what is deemed to be 'reasonable' accommodation. The cheapest way would probably be the use of hotels - and I reckon a 'mid-standard' hotel should be the benchmark. Whatever figure is decided, I cannot see any reason why a politician should not be free to use that 'allowance' to pay for a hotel, pay rent for accommodation, or pay the mortgage interest on a flat. Personally, I detest staying in hotels or in beds that others have slept in - so I would prefer to rent or buy a property which would be a family home, if I were to find myself facing such a situation.
We can all see that there is a serious problem at the moment - which has to be addressed. Its destroying what respect there was for politicians. But it should be addressed by dealing directly with the problem. The allowance should be restricted to what most of us thought it was - help with accommodation near the relevant 'parliament' for those who cannot commute. Some of the arrangements we've been made aware of over the last few weeks have astounded me. And then being told that they are within the rules has astounded me even more. The rules need changing. In addition, every payment should be made public, and based on the production of a receipt. Problem solved.
What I would find objectionable is that a position be created where politicians who live near London, Cardiff or Edinburgh should, in effect, be receiving higher remuneration that those who live beyond commuting distance - and it would be considerably higher if a flat rate salary were to be paid. I also see a problem with requiring any 'profit' made on a purchased property to be handed back. It could work, but to be fair, there would have to be some complex system of assessing inflation during the period of ownership. And what about losses incurred on a property - the one-way bet doesn't seem very fair.
Anyway, I've posted this blog, expecting disagreement, but hoping for rational debate and reasoned argument. And I didn't post it deliberately on Good Friday, when most people have gone on holiday for Easter, hoping that no-one would notice. That's another expenses trick that I strongly disapprove of.