Dave, Let’s talk expenses…

Sending this via the post….
10th April 2014
Dear Mr Cameron,
Well, that was a bit of a mess wasn’t it? All this Maria Miller stuff just didn’t die when you wanted it too. Us wretched citizens just kept going on and on about right and wrong, morals and ethics and we wouldn’t shut the Hell up. The bloody press sensing the opportunity to make even more mischief than usual and jumping on the bandwagon with their timelines and pictures of her face everywhere. And even MP’s on your own side saying she should go. Shocking eh? How dare the Country have an opinion, a view and a voice! She really had to go didn’t she? Obviously, after you had defended her so vigorously you couldn’t turn around and sack her could you? That would have made you look stupid, not that you need much assistance with that usually. 
Now whilst you are still defending her as an honourable woman, who ‘made a mistake’ (if that’s what you call it) and ‘apologised’ (if that’s what you call it) please remember that great speech of yours in 2010 where you said “We’re all in this together!” So here I am, in this together with you. But it doesn’t feel like it, it still feels like a two-tier society where your rich friends cherry pick their perks and privileges and we the ordinary folk struggle day to day and week to week to balance our incomes, prioritising one debt against another one month and switching it back the next. Whilst your friends fine dine at Gala dinners, many of us are choosing Asda Smartprice and when times are especially tough we go cap in hand to our nearest food-bank to ensure our children get fed. We skip meals, we eat 10p noodles and when you all go to bed with a full-up feeling in your nice warm houses (first or second it doesn’t matter),  we go to bed with a jumper because the heating is too costly and try to sleep with rumbling stomachs. How is that right or fair? 
Now as for making mistakes over money, if it was a regular person in a regular job what do you think would happen? Would their Boss say “Just a mistake ya silly thing. Don’t sweat it – It’s only money”?  Would their accountant say “This is how much you took by mistake but don’t worry your work colleagues said just stick a tenner in the coffee fund”? Would that happen? No it wouldn’t, there’d be a police investigation, a suspension, and probably a day in court followed by fortnightly trips up the Job Centre, where they’d be immediately sanctioned for losing their job by their own doing. Why did this not happen with Maria? It wasn’t your money she spent it was OURS. And because it was our money we deserved the process to be full, detailed and transparent. We got none of that. We got a cover up, we got a farce of a system and we got an insignificant amount of money back, which went out just as quick as it came in because of Maria’s golden handshake. Personally, I’d have said “Look Love, here’s £4 for a bus ticket and the number of Basingstoke Job Centre Plus.”
As it happens I have a dispute with the Tax Credits Dept. They say I didn’t make my annual declaration thingy last year (which I did) and are asking for three and a half grand back. That’s three and a half grand I haven’t got. I haven’t claimed tax credits since they stopped it in August, if I do they’ll state that I’m in receipt of it which will look like I have more coming in but they’ll stop it at source to repay the amount they say I owe. Because the calculations will look healthy I’ll most likely not be entitled to housing or council tax benefits nor free school dinners. It will be my children that suffer from the lack of income more than me or my partner, when I’ll struggle to give them a healthy lunchbox or I can’t afford to buy their school uniform. I’ll be back at that food-bank like I was when my partner lost his job because you were unable to verify one of his periods of employment. As he needed a five year checkable history your co-operation was the ‘make or break’ factor of him keeping his job. Thanks to the Job Centre he ended up back on the dole queue. 
But there is good news so I do have hope. Going by the recent ‘Millergate’ situation where if you have unknowingly received monies you are not entitled to, an amount owed is decided by an official body and then your peers (as in peer group, not those part-timers in the Lords) decide a much lower alternative payment amount. Now I’ve had a chat with a few mates on Facebook (my peers) and they reckon if we use the Millergate calculator that her peers used, all I need to pay back is £452.00 Result!
Now while we are talking money, here’s another “We’re all in this together” dilemma. It’s called the spare room subsidy, or spare room PENALTY as Andrew Selous MP called it this afternoon in the Chamber. Now as I haven’t done anything wrong to be penalised for I am a bit concerned I’m actually being punished for something I haven’t done. Anyways I digress, I was having a read at some news articles and I came across this when i Googled MP expenses. 
Now this is interesting, it’s about the Accommodation Allowance Rules and explains that in April 2011 the rules were “relaxed following claims from MPs that their family lives were being undermined by the expenses regime.”
So we have IPSA allowing MPs to increase the maximum allowance they can claim by £2,425 for each child they say ‘routinely resides’ with them. This includes children that live with another resident parent such as in divorced couples and visits the MP who is a non-resident parent in the eyes of the law. This seems to be the total opposite to the spare room subsidy, where a non-resident parent isn’t entitled to have a room for a child who routinely resides with them.
For clarification, the Free Online Dictionary defines ‘routinely’ as: “according to routine or established practise” and ‘resides’ as: “live (in a certain place); Make one’s home in” *other dictionary’s define these words in the same manner*
Well, here’s the thing. My partner has a daughter who does in fact, by definition, ‘routinely resides’ with us at weekends and during the school holidays. If I were an MP I would be able to claim £2,425 but as you do not deem us as equal to you instead I am forced to pay £12.99 per week because we are as a family on a low income, even though we are not a jobless household. Please explain to me how that is fair and how we are “all in this together” in this situation too. In effect my family life is being undermined by the welfare reform regime.
So let’s see where we are at, my peers calculate that I owe HMRC £452.00 and my yearly outgoing to my landlord for the not-so-spare bedroom totals £675.48. Deduct one from the other and the outstanding balance owed to me is £223.48. 
£223.48? Let’s call that my ‘golden handshake’ eh? Just make the cheque out to Sarah Tomkins there’s a good man.
Am I joking? No, so I’ll look forward to a reply back please stating when I’ll get my payment or if not why not, with a detailed explanation of why you have gone back on your promise of being in this together. 
Yours Sincerely,
Miss Sarah D Tomkins.

2 thoughts on “Dave, Let’s talk expenses…

  1. Some great points made.

    One other point to add..

    The 2010 Conservative manifesto said:

    “Our People Power manifesto will give local people the direct power to recall MPs found guilty of wrongdoing without having to wait for a General Election. Conservatives will empower local people to cast a vote of no confidence in their elected representative and bring an end to the concept of the ‘safe seat’. This proposal will make MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole of a Parliament – not just every five years.”

    So why 4 years on, have the public not been given the right to remove MP’s who are found guilty of wrongdoing? It was in the Tory manifesto, they have passed all sorts of laws including the bedroom tax which were NOT in their manfesto. So why not pass the law that they DID promise to pass?

    • Thanks for this Peter, I’ll have a look into this as it certainly seems they have ‘forgotten’. I’m sure by brainstorming we can list plenty of MP’s that this promised process should have applied to. x

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