MPs offered £10,000 for coronavirus office costs

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The normally congested roads around Westminster are deserted

MPs can claim £10,000 for additional office costs incurred as a result of the coronavirus, Parliament's expenses authority has said.

The money can be used to buy additional equipment such as laptops and printers for staff having to work from home.

This comes on top of the £26,000 MPs can claim to cover office costs.

The extra funds - first reported in The Times - will be available until March 2021 and come with a relaxation of the rules on evidence of purchases.

In its guidance, published last month, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said it was “committed to supporting MPs and their staff to carry on with their work as far as possible” during this "uncertain and challenging time for the country".

In response to criticism of the decision, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said the money would have to be accounted for in the usual way.

He said: "It is wrong to characterise this extra £10,000 allocated by IPSA as MPs giving themselves additional funds.

"On the contrary, this money is being used to enable MPs' staff to set up home working to support distressed constituents at a time of crisis. Many MPs have seen their casework soar as a direct result of coronavirus.

"Enabling staff to work remotely is the best and the safest way for them - and the constituents they are in contact with - to communicate and work together during these difficult times."

In addition to increasing the money available for MPs’ office costs, the authority is also suspending the 90-day limit for claiming costs and relaxing the requirements on producing evidence of money spent.

The monthly credit limit on MPs' payment card has been increased to £10,000 and the single transaction limit has been increased to £5,000.

The authority says it will provide additional funding from the staff absence budget for workers who are unwell or cannot be in work.

Responding to the announcement, Labour MP Andrew Gwynne said: “Casework has exploded (understandably too) so it’s right our offices remain open - remotely - at this time”.

But he added that it would have been better if IPSA had done “an equipment loan scheme instead”.

And Conservative MP Julie Marson said “No MP will see an extra penny of this in their bank accounts.

"IPSA increased the office budget to provide staff who primarily work from the office the ability to work from home, and to produce and distribute COVID19 information.”

Former Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie said: “Someone really needs to look at IPSA. They decide what public money goes to MPs, so amazed they don’t get more scrutiny, accountability and the head of IPSA isn’t a household name. Guess bashing MPs is a low-hanging fruit.”

IPSA was established in the wake of the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal. It sets and regulates MPs’ salaries, pensions, business costs and expenses.