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 Feature
22 June 2009 | Dr Jenny Dugmore Blog
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What planet are we living on?
This week Jenny looks at the Honourable Members of Parliament and their ongoing expenses saga...

  Dr Jenny Dugmore

Yes again we are swamped in the UK with the apparently endless saga of our MPs claiming possibly illegal, certainly unfair and in many cases downright cheeky claims for expenses.   How ironic that this group of people address each other in Parliament as ‘The Honourable Member of Parliament for .....’ 

For some of them this is true – they have been honourable, they have been, fair.  Some of them can even claim that the claims were mistakes, with the same receipt added to expenses twice.  We can all make that mistake, can’t we?  Although for me my most common mistake is to forget to claim something altogether and I don’t see many (any?) examples of MPs who have checked their expenses and now realise they should have claimed for more, not less. 

But now all our ‘Honourable Members of Parliament’ are being lumped into the same category.  I find this all the more annoying that some still think that it was acceptable to claim for a wide range of goods.  What planet are they on?  It’s certainly not the planet I live on and it sounds like a very strange place to me.

On the planet some of our MPs live on I have a moat, and if I have a moat it’s reasonable for it to be clean, so it’s OK to claim the expense of cleaning it.  Then of course, if we have a moat we may have ducks, so they need a floating duck island, and it’s OK to claim for that as well. How would the ducks cope otherwise? 

There would have to be a garden of course, and if I’m busy flipping my houses I don’t have time to do the gardening myself, so I need an expense claim to cover the cost of the gardener. If I’m to flip this house soon it has to look good.

The gardener will have to keep the garden tidy, to hang and water the flower baskets and fill the garden with more plants.  Any gardener knows, a garden may get moles, so the moles have to removed and someone has to pay for that as well, not to mention the rooks nests and the removal of mice.

Of course the garden isn’t the most important part of the house, whether it’s my first, second or even fifth house. I need beds, curtains, blinds, new flooring, wallpaper, lamps, new central heating, new kitchen and a completely renovated bathroom. 

As an MP I have to keep up with current affairs, so a new and very very large TV and radio are an essential tool of my job, not an indulgence,  so please will someone else pay for them?

I need to eat so food has to be bought so I also need a fridge to keep it in.  The house has to be clean to I need a cleaner to come in often and the cleaner will need a new vacuum cleaner to make sure the new floors and carpets remain in good condition.

Then of course, all this new stuff needs to be protected from the rain, so a replacement roof is essential, especially if I am about to sell the house, I don’t want the prospective buyer to be put off by a leaking roof.  I might even want to sell the house to one of my children, who spends more time there than I do, and even if I do sell it at less than market value I want it to be in good condition as well.

Being an MP is a very busy job and I have a great deal of paperwork to deal with, so I don’t have time to fill in all the expense claim forms myself – so someone else has to do this for me, so I only need sign them, but they expect to be paid for it, so they have to add this to the expense claim before I sign it.

Then there are my tax returns, I don’t have time to do them so I get an accountant to pay for that as well, even though all my constituents either do it themselves of pay for someone to do it and pay for it out of their own pocket.  I am an MP and expect to be treated differently than those I represent.

As an MP it’s not all office work though, as I am expected to go to many social events and some of them might even be fun.  If I go to a fancy dress party I expect the public to pay for a silly wig – after all, I don’t want people thinking I spend all time rising to the intellectual challenge of representing my constituents, or do I mean working out what else I can claim for on expenses to make sure I get right up to the actual limit every year. 

They could of course all learn something from service management – what would happen to us if we behaved like this? Ambiguous documentation of policies, processes and procedures, poor records, little or no management of customer satisfaction, little or no continual improvement, even too little security? The direct result is a major incident and serious difficulties with service continuity, but then the service management industry lives in the real world not this strange planet our MPs live on.

Any feedback and comments are always welcome!


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