Letter from IPSA Chief Executive, 24 November 2022
Supporting democracy is fundamental to what IPSA does. IPSA sets budgets for MPs and the rules under which money can be spent, supported by additional guidance. Compliance with our rules is consistently in excess of 99.8% and the vast majority of MPs spend less than their full allocated budget. These are business costs, not expenses.
We do not believe that MPs should have to fund their constituency offices, which undertake vital work for some of the most vulnerable people in society, from their own pockets. To ask this would be to require those standing to become MPs to have prior independent wealth.
Over three quarters of budgets are used to employ caseworkers and similar staff, who deal with often distressing cases day in day out, and to rent constituency offices for them to work from and meet the local community when appropriate.
We also recognise that, to meet local community needs, not all MPs’ offices operate in the same way and so we give a degree of discretion, rather than apply a one size fits all set of prescriptive rules. Sometimes we are asked to provide more guidance in specific areas, as we were around Christmas spend, even though the rules themselves have not changed for several years. After issuing this guidance I have been contacted by a number of MPs who have made it clear to me that they have never made such claims in the past and have no intention of doing so in the future. I accept and respect that.
We got the messaging wrong by allowing the impression to form that this is what MPs were wanting to do, rather than our interpretation of the discretion available under the existing rules. We are an independent body and we make our own decisions but occasionally, like everyone, we make mistakes. I would like to apologise to those MPs and their staff who have had to deal with phone calls, e-mails and in some cases abuse as a result of our guidance. They did not write the guidance or influence its contents. In issuing it we also failed to recognise the public mood at a time of severe economic and financial pressures. I am sorry for that.
Chief Executive, IPSA