Changes to raise MP expenses bill
The bill for MPs' expenses is set to rise by millions of pounds after the watchdog that oversees the payments made a series of concessions to soothe furious politicians.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is to allow more spending on accommodation, travel, and staff. It is also "actively considering" whether to give MPs freer reign over budgets and check how they use money retrospectively.
The controversial changes come after angry complaints from across parties that the system created in the wake of the expenses scandal is too restrictive and bureaucratic.
David Cameron, who has previously condemned Ipsa's rules as "anti-family", suggested earlier this week that it could be relocated to Croydon in order to cut administrative costs.
Chairman Sir Ian Kennedy denied the body is "fighting for survival" amid the criticism. But he said reforms being published on Friday are necessary to ensure politicians can do their jobs.
Ipsa officials refused to estimate how much the changes would cost the taxpayer, saying it would depend on what MPs decided to claim. However, the extra staff spending for 650 MPs could potentially reach £3.25 million, and the accommodation bill is likely to rise by hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Sir Ian said a sharp fall in total expenses claims meant the taxpayer had saved £18 million since Ipsa took charge last May. But he admitted it was impossible to say whether Ipsa had reduced administration costs because comparable figures could not be extracted from the old Fees Office.
"It is right and fair to keep the rules on MPs' expenses under review, to make sure they are appropriate and to see they evolve as is necessary to meet the needs of the public and MPs," he went on.
"From the consultation it is clear there are some areas which would benefit from change and some which should not be changed.
"The key to the changes is that there can be no going back to the old ways but we must be fair to MPs and ensure that there are robust mechanisms of accountability and transparency for the taxpayer."