Friday, May 15, 2009

The Importance of Public Service and Thoughts on MPs Expenses

I recently did a radio show and phone in for Awaaz FM along with Councillor Royston Smith about the importance of public service. The interview came ahead of the forthcoming European Elections on 4th June. I talked about the importance of voting how people can get involved in politics and their community. I also talked about why I first stood to be a councillor and why I am standing for Parliament.

This was all before the row that has blown up over MPs expenses. It all very depressing for someone like me who aspires to represent his local area in Parliament and believes in public service.

Expenses should be just that and should not be an excuse for some MPs to live off the state.

Being an MP is different to most jobs but it is beyond me why they think it is ok to claim all their food and things like tables and chairs.

In Southampton both our MPs, Alan Whitehead and John Denham, make use of their parliamentary communications allowances to pay for their leaflets to be printed and distributed.

As a candidate for Parliament my local political party pays for my leaflets. Why should the taxpayer pay for Alan and John’s? The communications allowance is £10,000 a year or £50,000 in a Parliament. That’s a lot of leaflets paid for by the taxpayer!

I have pledged that if elected to Parliament I will not putting my leaflets on expenses and I am backing David Cameron who has pledged to scrap the allowance if he becomes the next Prime Minister.

I challenge our Southampton MPs to do the same and in fact they should stop claiming this money now. Saying it is within the rules is not an excuse. It is not right and they should stop it.

Alan Whitehead has a long track record for
arguing that political parties should receive more money from the taxpayer. My view is the opposite!

I should say that to his credit my opponent at the next General Election, Alan Whitehead has put a list of his expenses on his website. John Denham who represents the Southampton Itchen constituency has as yet failed to do so.


Anonymous said...

Jeremy, I fail to see your issue with John Denham and Alan Whitehead's use of 'parliamentary communications allowances' for.. erm... Parlimentary Communication.

As the City's serving MPs surely it is to the benefit of their constituents and for democracy in general for the publication and widespread distribution of the activities and views of their representatives.

I fail to see the difference between this and the 'City View' magazine which is produced by Southampton City Council, presumably also funded by the tax payer. As serving councillors, both yourself and Royston Smith understandably receive exposure through the award winning City View, which is delivered to every home in the City. Understandably the positive spin which the work of yourself, Royston and the council as a whole receives in City View has also contributed to raising both of your profiles, providing you with a platform to launch your respective parliamentary election campaigns. So how is this any different to the communication produced by John Denham and Alan Whitehead?

Jeremy Moulton said...

You think it is right for the MPs to spend between them up to £100,000 in a parliament on the printing and delivery of leaflets exclusively promoting themselves?

I notice the latest one from Alan Whithead says as its strap line 'Alan Whitehead (Labour) working for Southampton'. I think it is an abuse. I certainly will not be doing this if elected.

As for the City View, this is a council magazine. It existed long before my party became the adminstration and it has always featured councillors to some extent. It is about promoting council services.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, thank you for responding to my comment.

Yes, I do think it is right for MP's to spend £100 000 in a parliament, or 29p per constituent per year (based upon a constituency size of 70 000 people) on the printing and distribution of leaflets promoting their work as the elected representatives of their constituents.

As a constituent I am happy to receive communication from my elected representative which highlights their views, work on behalf of the constituency and contact details, among other items.

I beleive such communication is necessary to keep constituents advised of who their representative is and what actions they are taking. In other words it is a key part of the democratic process.

Furthermore, having a parliamentary allowance ensures that all MPs regardless of their personal wealth or party funds are able to advise their constituents of the work they carry out.

I still see no difference between this type of communication and the City View publication. Both are aimed at providing the electorate with details of the actions taken by elected representatives. In the case of the Council this is of a body rather than an individual, though it can be argued that the incumbent ruling party on the council, in this moment of time your party, will stand gain the most from positive publicity, or spin, of services provided and actions carried out by the Council.

As for your feelings on Alan Whitehead using the line 'Alan Whitehead (Labour) working for Southampton' I'm puzzled by these as I assumed that Alan Whitehead is being paid a salary and has been elected to work for Soputhampton, so I for one would be unhappy were Alan to be working for someone, or something else.

In the interests of clarity, would it also be possible for you to advise how much, per head of population, per year City View currently costs to produce?

Jeremy Moulton said...


I agree its proper and desirable for elected representatives to communicate with electorate. I don't think this extends to the taxpayer paying for delivery and distribution of thousands of leaflets promoting themselves, especially when they mention their political party.

The Conservative Party will abolish this if it gets into Government and if elected I certainly won't be billing this sort of activity to the taxpayer. Political parties should pay for this themselves and should raise the money through fund raising.

City View is not about promoting councillors or the Council Administration of the day. It is about promoting council services. Take a look through the last few issues and see if you really think its comparable with an MP leaflet.

The feedback from residents is its very popular. Residents know that they are paying for it and like it. If people don't value it or want it the Council will stop doing it.

I wonder if residents like paying for Alan's leaflets. I suspect if they knew that they were paying for them they would be very unhappy.

City View is about £150k pa. Its 10 issues per year. Although some costs are covered by advertising.