MPs expenses: How to save £91 a week

Earlier this week, the government published the details of expenses claimed by Members of Parliament.

Plenty has been talked about during the past few months in relation to MPs’ expenses, not the least of which has been the ongoing scoop by The Daily Telegraph in exposing some truly extraordinary behaviours by our elected representatives (the latest chapter of which published today concerns “errors” by over 50 MPs in allegedly over-claiming council tax).

So I was glancing through the receipts for expenses claimed by John Redwood, the Member of Parliament for my constituency (Wokingham) now that they’re online. Well, some of them, many with huge chunks blacked out (click the small image above to see the complete one and you’ll see what I mean).

Much of it is mundane, the kind of thing you’d expect to see in business, too, relating to the day-to-day incidentals in running your business. Stationary costs, staff expenses, mobile phone bills, that sort of thing.

One in particular caught my eye – newspapers. One of the receipts (the image snip above) is for the cost of newspapers delivered to the MP’s office in a certain period last year. The claim amounts to £91.50.

Why not cancel all of that and get your newspaper content online, Mr Redwood? Assuming you subscribe to all those papers fro research purposes, your researchers will find it a great deal more effective to have access to digital content rather than the stuff of dead trees.

And it’s very much in keeping with some of the ideas for Digital Britain.

That’s what I do. I don’t buy newspapers except on Saturdays when it’s usually the Telegraph and sometimes the Guardian – it’s recreational reading and the supplements keep me going all week.

£91.50 is not a huge amount in itself but it adds up when you look at that type of cost every week in a year. Then imagine many of the other 646 MPs with similar claims (a potential cost of £3 million in a year).

Giving this up is a small deed. Yet isn’t trust often about small deeds?

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Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Matt Churchill

    Have you read John’s blog? – http://www.johnredwoodsdiary.com

    I don’t agree with much of what he says, but it’s an interesting insight into his thoughts and the way that a political mind works.

    If Mr. Redwood is tuned into the ‘new media’ landscape enough to contruct a blog post or two per day, surely he can get his news online as you say.

    Perhaps MPs should be given a tutorial on RSS feeds and how they’re quicker and easier than flicking through a newspaper – heck their office could even set up vanity searches – who’da thought…

    • neville

      Yes I do read John Redwood’s blog. Like you, much of what he writes about doesn’t resonate with me at all. But he’s a good writer, constructs his arguments thoughtfully and is especially good when he writes about local issues.

  2. Stuart Bruce

    Have to disagree strongly with you here. If you’re wanting to quickly scan papers for stories that might be of passing interest then physical papers are far more effective and faster. I can flick through papers and spot headlines and quickly scan the body copy far faster than online which would require me to click on headlines and then scroll to see the story. It’s just too slow. Also I can read a paper while I’m eating my lunch, much more conveniently than online. Trying to the same online and I would miss story. I’m addicted to both my RSS feeds and my daily papers, but for different reasons and one does not replace the other. Both are essential.

    • neville

      Whatever works for you, Stuart! For doing quick scans as you mention, I don’t think I’d disagree with you.

      Yet I’m not talking about quick scans bbut about research, the kind of activity an MP would have staff (professional or otherwise) doing for him or her. In that sense, physical newspapers are pretty useless compared to online searching and connecting disparate pieces of information.

      It’s not really about RSS feeds although they are useful tools as part of your overall online monitoring and attention.

      If the example I used of John Redwood is indicative of what MPs do – pay £90 a week to get the physical papers for quick scanning – then that is a serious waste of money not to mention an ineffective and inefficient use of everyone’s time.

      I would hope that such pre-1990 activity isn’t the norm, although I fear I’d be sorely disappointed.

  3. Philip

    I am with Stuart in that I too find it easier to skim and spot stories on paper but I also subscribe to the “real” Guardian/ Observer as a matter of principle – without my money coming in every day from em and others like me it is hard to see quality journalism surviving in its present form. I know I am old-fashioned and sentimental….

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