Yesterday, xxxxxx asked me to find out from IPSA about the deadline for filing claims. I have been put on hold twice for 15 minutes, listening to piped music. I have also e-mailed twice. No reply. The Fees Office would have picked up the phone in a minute and answered on the spot.
This morning she emailed back to say that they still hadn't returned the call. Also yesterday Denis MacShane and Michael Fabricant both wrote letters to the Telegraph pointing out IPSA's failings. So I decided to do an hour's phone in last night on LBC asking people if they had any more sympathy for MPs now, than they did at the time of the expenses scandal.
We rang IPSA to ask them to put up a spokesman to defend their position. Strangely, no one was available. So they employ several press officers, are recruiting a Director of Communications at a salary of £85,000 and yet can't or won't put up someone to defend their position.
Needless to say, virtually no callers had any sympathy at all with the predicament some MPs find themselves in. I can't say I was surprised by that, but even so, it's the newly elected MPs I feel sorry for. Many of them are not well heeled financially and are having real problems. Some of them are owed more than £10,000 by IPSA and see no prospect of being reimbursed in the immediate future. And this is not for things you'd ordinarily put on an expenses claim. This is for constituency office rental and paying staff. One MP I know has a secretary who hasn't received a penny from IPSA for her salary since the election as they fail to recognise she is even employed. So the MP is subbing her out of his own pocket and has had to max out on his credit cards. This cannot be right and illustrates what an incompetent shower IPSA are. And yet their chief executive fails to realise the extent of the problem.
Sir Alastair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, came on the programme and he also thought IPSA was failing. He blamed it on the way it was set up in haste by Gordon Brown. He reckoned that the basic problem was that it was expected to be both administrator and regulator.
IPSA is costing us £6 million a year to run, three times more than the old Fees Office. It seems to me it is out of control and more or less impervious to criticism. It treats its MP 'clients' with utter disdain and contempt and appears to believe it can do what it likes. Someone needs to reign it in. And do it quickly.
UPDATE: Read THIS article on the Tribune site headed IS IPSA GOING TO LET ME STARVE? to see how MPs' staff are being affected. The anonymous author writes...
IPSA was created as a knee-jerk response to public outrage. Bad legislation is something that can sometimes be repented at leisure, but this body is an abomination; bloated beyond control by its sense of moral self-importance. Tory blogger Iain Dale has brought a video to wider attention on his website. This shows Ken Osila, a member of the IPSA board, desperately trying to
justify IPSA’s inflated salaries and vast, bureaucratic machine. Labour created this and the party should now show the moral courage necessary to undo the harm it has caused.
Politics is in danger of becoming the province of the rich. That might suit the current Cabinet, but would be very bad for the rest of us. The system of parliamentary expenses has moved from one extreme to the other – from a chaotic vacuum to a bureaucratic nightmare.
UPDATE: LabourList have also written along similar lines HERE.