Monday, March 7, 2011

IPSA spends £4,300 per member of staff on furniture

Fascinating news today that IPSA has spent £293,000 furnishing it's offices at an average of £4,300 per member of staff. IPSA bosses have apparently defended this by saying:

"IPSA is not part of the Parliamentary estate. Last year we walked into a shell of an office and needed to equip it - there is a cost associated in doing so. We followed the proper procedures - we held a competition through the Office of Government Commerce, where the Government has approved suppliers and rates,”

Now strangely enough our constituency office isn't part of the Parliamentary Estate either, and therefore doesn't get any furniture. It was in fact when we moved in, an empty shell of an office. However was there any budget from IPSA to get furniture or set-up the office? Perhaps something that IPSA would describe in terms of their own expenditure as "...a one off expenditure which we will not be repeating." Short answer, no. MPs are given a roughly £10,000 annual budget for anything they purchase for their offices that isn't rent, utility bills etc, from that as a new MP we had to buy some special software for tracking constituent contacts a one off cost of a few thousand pounds, letterheads and stationary, and have enough left over to pay ongoing running costs (such as toner for the Parliament supplied printers, a complete set of which costs about £500).

In reality our office is furnished with furniture from my own home office, and some items kindly leant to us from the office next door, who probably expected to get them back at some point and are slowly realising they won't. I would love to be able to have spent £465 for a relaxer lounger, or £262 for visitor chairs. I would more realistically love to be able to buy a sofa and stools for visitors to be able to have informal meetings sat on rather than having meetings formally across a desk but it's never going to happen because:
1) It will be published and misrepresented by a newspaper who will think it's appalling we've brought a £100 sofa from Ikea, and should instead be sitting on bare concrete floors;
2) IPSA haven't given us any money to do it.

Yes some MPs milked their personal expenses for profit and gain, but it is as much staff who are suffering now as the MPs, whilst IPSA continues to live in its own world.

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