The issue of how much we should pay our elected representatives is again causing debate and outrage. Having worked in Parliament, I have seen firsthand that many MPs work incredibly hard, are committed to improving the lives of their constituents and are involved in politics for the right reasons (Steve Rotheram immediately springs to mind).
That said, I have also come across too many MPs who have only minimal interaction with their constituency and who are lazy, arrogant and vastly unfit for office. Some MPs in safe seats – those that are unlikely to ever lose an election because the support for their party outstrips the opposition – simply do not need to put the hours in because they know they have a job for life.
The appropriateness of giving MPs a £6000 pay rise at a time of economic stagnation and when a lot of people, especially those in the public sector, are really suffering, will understandably dominate the headlines.
Equal attention will also be given to whether MPs actually deserve the pay rise. Here are five easy ways that you can decide whether your MP justifies their £74,000 a year and provides good value for money:
1. Visit http://www.theyworkforyou.com and see what your MP has been doing in Parliament. You can check what contribution they have made in debates, what questions they have asked the government and what committees they sit on. Crucially, you can also see what gifts or money they have received from outside Parliament. This includes second jobs, trade union sponsorships, payment for media appearances and remuneration for overseas visits.
2. Look at the breakdown of your MP’s expenses. IPSA’s website allows you to search what expenses your MP has made, from their accommodation, living and travel costs to staffing and office expenditure.
3. Check what your MP’s voting record is on http://www.publicwhip.org.uk. Not only will this allow you to see how your MP has voted, you can also see how many times they have actually bothered to fulfil their democratic obligation and turned up to vote.
4. Check your MP’s website to see what they are doing in your constituency. Look to see how often they are at events or visiting local businesses, for example. Most MPs cannot wait to get photographs of them at events and meeting local people onto their websites. This should give you a good indication of how often they are actually in the constituency. Also look to see what they do during Parliamentary recesses. Are they working in the constituency or are they away in some exotic location on yet another All Party Parliamentary Group visit?
5. Write to your MP and ask them to update you on what they are doing. Many MPs now have newsletters for constituents; ask to be added to the mailing lists so you can keep up to date. At the end of the day, they are there to represent you and you are entitled to ask what they are up to.