Two Yorkshire politicians have pledged to donate a proposed 11 per cent pay rise for MPs to charity, with one branding the increase “barking mad”.
The independent body given responsibility for Westminster pay and perks in the wake of the expenses scandal is pressing ahead with plans to boost salaries by £7,600 to £74,000 after the 2015 general election.
That is significantly lower than the £86,250 average figure MPs told the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) they deserved in an anonymous survey earlier this year. But while a handful publicly defended the increase, many from all three main parties said the move was unacceptable when most public sector workers were getting no more than one per cent extra a year.
Conservative MPs Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) and Craig Whittaker (Calder Valley) were among those to hit out at the proposed increase, warning it was wrong at a time of austerity and pay freezes for millions.
“This is ridiculous, it is far too high,” Mr Andrew said. “If it happens, certainly I will give it to charity.” He also warned it could damage the public perception of MPs.
MPs were stripped of the power to set their own pay in the wake of the revelations of widespread abuses of taxpayer expenses, leaving them little or no room to block Ipsa’s proposals short of changing its role by law.
Mr Whittaker said he could not understand why Ipsa was in favour of such a hefty pay hike now.“I think now is the time for Parliament to get a grip on this Ipsa process. It’s just madness – barking mad. I will be asking if now is the time that we really looked at what Ipsa is doing.”
The Calder Valley MP added: “If I am forced to take it, I will look at donating it to a local charity. I hope it doesn’t come to that.”
The planned pay rise for MPs was branded “wholly inappropriate” by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander who said he would not take advantage of the extra cash but conceded Parliament was powerless to prevent it being paid.
Ipsa will unveil its final package of pay and perks later this week. It is expected to try to temper criticism by announcing a tougher-than-expected squeeze on MPs’ pensions in a bid to cancel out the £4.6m cost to the public purse.
Mr Alexander said: “Most people will find it utterly incomprehensible that at a time of pay restraint for the public sector, at a time of further squeezes on Government spending, that Ipsa should be recommending (that), if that’s what they do.”
Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, MP for Morley and Outwood, said: “I think it is preposterous we should be having this discussion and, as a shadow chancellor, how could I possibly say to Labour MPs at this time, with the economy like this, with the economy under real pressure, there’s a cost of living crisis, that they should take a pay rise?”
Public anger was reflected on social networking sites yesterday with many pointing out that working families were struggling to make ends meet in the face of pay cuts, reduced hours and pay freezes.
These concerns were borne out by a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which revealed there are more working families living in poverty in the UK than non-working ones – the first time such a balance has been recorded.
Some 6.7 million working families live below the poverty line – an increase of 500,000 on last year – compared with a combined 6.3 million of retired families and the out-of-work, the charity said.
Households have been hit by a sustained and “unprecedented” fall in living standards, its report found. Average incomes have fallen by eight per cent since their peak in 2008. As a result, around 2 million people have an income that while above today’s poverty line, would have been below the poverty line in 2008.
Of those in work, the number paid below the living wage rose from 4.6 million to five million in 2012.