We suggest how politicians can reduce their ridiculous expense claims on second homes, which in turn makes us better off too.
MPs are entitled to essential claims on second homes so that they have both a residence in their constituency and a place to stay in London when they're in the office.
But it's clear that the rules are far too loose and the spirit of the rules has not been followed. Not by a long shot.
I'll list for you a fraction of the claims that politicians have ludicrously tried to defend. To put it as nicely as possible, the individuals concerned all blur into one meaningless mess of trough swill and I don't want to get party political.
So I'll leave out their names and just pick out the key expenses that really stick in my throat. Where I can, I'll make suggestions or hints that may help MPs to reduce these claims. Some of my tips could be useful for any of you who have second homes, too.
Firstly, here are a re-cap on some of the most outrageous 'essential spending' claims:
- £2,000 on mowing paddocks.
- £2,000 on clearing a moat.
- Tens of thousands on restoration on a property nowhere near the constituency or London.
- £5,000 on new furniture for three homes in a year.
- Bills approaching £200,000 on a country home.
- £12,000 on gardening over five years.
- Switching the designation of a second home with the main residence four times in four years to claim back repair and furniture costs.
- £75,000 to fund a second home 12 miles from the main residence.
- £850 per month on second-home mortgage payments, followed by a sale of the property for a capital gains tax-free £45,000 profit. (In other words, the taxpayer paid the costs of this property investment. Also, if you and I sell a second home we pay 40% Capital Gains Tax. Not MPs though, it seems. Why don't the MPs give all the profits they make on sales to the taxpayer?)
Right, now onto my suggestions - which are just plain common sense. (Seemingly, our politicians don't have any.)
- £300 on swimming pool maintenance. (You could teach yourself to maintain it for free on the Internet.)
- Horse manure. (Grow your own compost.)
- A lawnmower. (Borrow it from your main residence.)
- Grocery bills of £400 per month.(Surely this MP would have needed to eat even if she'd stayed in her main residence. Was she eating £400-worth of food all herself? Either way, she should try a supermarket's Basics/Value range.)
- Hiring someone to change light bulbs. (If you can't do it yourself, why not ask a friend, if you have any?)
- £10,000 on furniture. (Have you not heard of Freecycle, or even eBay or Ikea?)
- ££14,500 a year on a full-time housekeeper. (Can't you just hire a cleaner once a week for £20?
In our interests?
All honest mistakes? They really thought that this was in the taxpayer's interests, did they?
Of course not. As one MP admitted, it's a rotten system. Rotten systems will always be controlled by rotten people. I'm not angry or surprised, but fascinated after reading pages and pages of extraordinary claims. I kept thinking that the list must stop soon, but there are six or seven hundred MPs, after all.
What can we do?
These guys have undoubtedly been abusing their positions for years. Centuries in fact. However, trying to destroy MPs for past transgressions is a dead end. Our chances of a big success in that regard are zero. They make the rules.
Where we can have an impact is if we focus our efforts on changing the future. One MP said 'I'm sorry it has come to this.' Well, we're not. Public anger and outrage has already forced a positive reaction. Some MPs have agreed to repay swimming pool maintenance and others will stop claiming the second-home allowance, because they don't need it. The parties are being forced to cut back on some of the more outrageous claims.
Making long-term improvements will be harder, but if we keep up the anger we will no doubt see more changes. After that, we must be diligent. We must fight any deliberate inertia to change, and must be critical of any new 'independent' overseers, and of the savings to the taxpayer being whittled away by greater pay-rises or new benefits.
If we could build up enough anger to also take on expenses for MEPs, civil servants and the BBC, we could be tens of millions better off a year. We should also not forget that personal staff is probably the biggest expense for MPs, and it's often unnecessary or simply rewarding family members. Let's build up the pressure on all these things, as we'll all benefit financially.
> Cut your (second-home?) mortgage costs with lovemoney.com's award-winning mortgage comparison service.
> One MP tried to claim for fire damage after believing he was under-insured. Don't you be too. Compare home insurance.
> Read some more money-saving tips.
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