I was both saddened & angered to read that Sarah Dines MP had already claimed more than £10,000 in expenses this year.
Readers may be interested to know that in addition to the £84,000 Ms Dines is paid as an MP, last year she also received £65,000 working as a barrister for 3BP Chambers in London. Her constituents who, as taxpayers pay her salary as an MP, may wonder if they are getting value for money. As the adage reminds us “No man (or woman) can serve two masters.”
Whilst Ms Dines appears to struggle in making ends meet on a combined income of £149,000 plus expenses in excess of £10,000, she expects ordinary folk to manage on far less. She, together with her Conservative colleagues, voted against the proposal to provide free school meals for the country’s neediest children during the school holidays. She also abstained on the vote to maintain the £20 additional weekly payment to those on Universal Credit – a real lifeline to many families.
There appears to be a growing disconnect between MPs and the daily lives and experiences of the people that they have been elected to serve & represent. MPs have erected a protective financial barrier around them that shields them from the consequences of the policies & legislation that they enact. In the same week that details emerged about the expenses claimed by MPs, the death of Phillipa Day was also reported. Phillipa was a single mother who suffered from post- natal depression; she was also a type 1 diabetic & was unable to work. A series of administrative blunders resulted in her becoming a victim of bureaucracy: her benefits were cut from £228 to £60 per week. Unable to cope, Phillipa took an overdose & died in October 2020. In 2019 a Government Watchdog found that 69 other suicides may have been the result of claimants experiencing difficulties with the Department of Work & Pensions. The National Audit Office says that the real number is almost certainly higher. Some see this is an inevitable result of a system being created by those who have lost contact with the everyday experiences of its people.
The pandemic has created huge problems for all of us. Sadly, it is the poorest in society that will feel more than their fair share of that weight. At a time when we need MPs with a real understanding of public duty & service, they are in short supply.