Norfolk and Suffolk MPs hit out at proposed salary hike
- Credit: PA
If an independent body were to recommend a pay rise for most of us, we would no doubt grasp it with both hands. But things are not quite so simple when you're a Member of Parliament.
At a time when pay is frozen across much of the private sector and restrained in the public sector – and many people blame you for that situation – it's not good for your chances at the ballot box if voters see you accepting an 11pc salary hike.
Add into the mix that memories of the expenses scandal are still fresh in the minds of many and it's little wonder that so many MPs have been so quick to turn on their regulator over plans for a pay hike to £74,000.
Most of those in our region have condemned the increase, with two MPs saying they would donate the increase – about £7,500 – to charity.
And all three main party leaders have condemned the idea of an increase at a time when the rest of the country is suffering austerity.
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The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) has recommended that the current salary of £66,396 should rise to £74,000 after the election in May 2015.
From then, wages will increase annually in line with average UK earnings, a mechanism the regulator hopes will ensure the situation is resolved for the long term.
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The existing final salary pension scheme will be downgraded to career average – as happened across the rest of the public sector some years ago.
Ipsa's chairman Sir Ian Kennedy remained defiant after announcing the new package for consultation, insisting politicians' pay had to 'catch up' after years of being suppressed.
But MPs in our region have criticised the proposed hike. Henry Bellingham, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, said it was 'simply not justifiable'. He said: 'At a time when most people in the public sector have had little or no increase and people in the private sector have had a decrease it would be quite extraordinary for there to even be any consideration of awarding MPs the proposed increase.'
Fellow Conservatives Chloe Smith (Norwich North) and George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) both pledged, if the increase does go ahead, that they would donate it to charity.
Miss Smith said: 'It's set by an independent body and it is absolutely right that MPs have no say in it.
'But my personal view is that the salary measure that the body is proposing is wrong and it's a real slap in the face for people who haven't had a real rise in a long while.'
Brandon Lewis, Conservative MP for Great Yarmouth, said: 'I am shocked that they feel at this time, with a public sector pay freeze, that this is a sensible option.'
Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South, said the proposals were 'unjustifiable'. He said: 'Most people in Norwich have not seen big pay rises over the last few years. I cannot see a case for increasing MP pay by this amount and if it goes ahead, I will not be pocketing it. I would urge the public to take part in the Ipsa consultation and press for a rethink.'
Keith Simpson, Conservative MP for Broadland, said: 'Their timing is pretty bad. We have been through austerity and there has been a pause in public sector pay. We are public sector.'
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, said: 'I won't be accepting a pay rise, both during the course of this Parliament and whilst public sector pay is being restrained.'
David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, said; 'The public rightly did not want MPs deciding their own pay and that is why we have an independent body. Ipsa should take account of public opinion when they make their final recommendation in the autumn.'
Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, said: 'I don't think this sort of increase can be justified when everyone else is in very difficult circumstances, when they have had pay cuts or freezes.'
However, Richard Bacon, South Norfolk MP, had a different take. He said it was right that MPs should not set their own pay, especially following the expenses scandal.
He said: 'The current Ipsa proposals are for consultation but I will abide by the final decision which Ipsa reaches. If Ipsa offers MPs a pay rise, I will accept it. If they don't, I will accept that.'
He added he would rather see personal allowances for MPs scrapped and replaced with a 'significantly higher salary', taxed in the normal way, which he said would reduce total public expenditure.
Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said: 'Parliament needs to show leadership and put our own house in order with efficiency savings in the Palace of Westminster and wait for economic recovery before any discussion of MPs' pay.'
Elizabeth Truss, Conservative MP for South West Norfolk, said: 'MPs should not decide their own pay scales and Ipsa was established to ensure this decision was impartial.'
The proposals will go out for consultation before Ipsa confirms the arrangements in the autumn.