MPs said they could throw Christmas parties at taxpayers’ expense

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 11: The Christmas tree outside number 10 Downing Street on December 11, 2021 in London, England. Number 10 has canceled its Christmas party amid concerns about rising Covid-19 cases. It is also conducting an inquiry into a Downing Street gathering in December last year, two days after the country introduced Tier 3 lockdown restrictions. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Some MPs blasted the news (Image: Getty Images Europe)

MPs have been told they will be allowed to host Christmas events at the taxpayer’s expense in an announcement that has sparked fury.

For the first time, politicians in their constituencies can “claim the costs for meals and refreshments for an office celebration”.

Lights, tinsel and Christmas trees can also be settled as new advice from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority authorizes “festive decorations” indoors and sending cards to residents.

But public money must not be spent on alcohol, the guide warns.

MPs have been instructed to look carefully at costs as many Britons struggle to heat their homes and feed their children.

Their gatherings should “represent good value for money, especially in the current economic climate,” says a document designed to answer “frequently asked questions.”

MPs in London get £31,620 in their annual office expenses budget, while those outside the capital get £28,570.

Costs including travel, accommodation and staff rose to £138.6m in 2021-22. Daily Mail reports.

Labor MP Jess Phillips blasted the news, saying: “Nobody has asked for it and nobody I know is going to use it”.

She called Ipsa “irresponsible” in a Twitter post retweeted by Secretary of State James Cleverly, saying: “The guidelines were not made by MPs and yet we are blamed for them. I think it’s really irresponsible to put out this guidance as if MEPs asked for it, when I’ve literally never heard anyone do it.

“I have a tree in my office that we dust every year and decorations (tinsel and baubles from Wilkos) that I paid for. We have homemade decorations made by kids at a local school and some knitted fairy lights made by a nice local knitting group (again that I paid for).

“I will be having a Christmas party for my staff, it will be at my house where I will cook and pay for all food and drink.”

Former Brexit secretary David Davis also criticized the move, saying the spending watchdog “missed the mood of the times”.

The senior Tory told TalkTV: “I think it’s crazy, honestly.”

Shadow chief executive Jonathan Reynolds has suggested that the expense watchdog was “a bit naïve” in issuing such guidance.

He told Times Radio: “People didn’t ask about it. I don’t think anyone will use it.

“That’s our regulator … the independent body that runs MPs’ expenses scheme, which is a scheme for staff and renting your office and all those things, you know, to be honest, a little bit naive because when they publish stuff like that , you get a story like this.

“I understand why people cover it this way, but I doubt anyone will use it. People won’t have asked for it. And (perhaps) Ipsa needs to be a little more crafty when it comes to how they present what they’re doing on this one.

The news also came under fire from the TaxPayers’ Alliance, with a spokesman saying: “MPs are already getting a good deal with no taxpayer-funded office pleasures”.

“While companies and households in their constituencies pay for the parties out of their own pockets, politicians fall back on public coffers. MPs who want Christmas parties should foot the bill themselves,” said John O’Connell of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

Metro.co.uk has reached out to Downing Street for comment.

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/11/22/mps-told-they-can-throw-christmas-parties-at-the-taxpayers-expense-17803120/ MPs said they could throw Christmas parties at taxpayers' expense

Justin Scacco

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