‘We shouldn’t have a say on our pay’ – Sunderland and Durham MPs back independent body to set politicians’ salaries

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WEARSIDE MPs today backed using an independent body to decide on their pay – which could see their salaries top £70,000.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is expected to announce that backbench MPs £66,000 salaries should rise 15 per cent from the election.

David Cameron said such a plan is “unthinkable.” But it has been suggested he could not block the recommendations, and advisers warned him MPs would reject a bid to do so.

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson believes giving Ipsa – set up following the expenses scandal – the responsibility of deciding politicians pay and pensions was the right decision.

“We transferred responsibility for deciding MPs’ pay and pensions to an outside, independent body in the wake of the expenses scandal,” she told the Echo.

“That was the right thing to do, and it would be hypocritical to change that on the basis of rumours.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said that he would not take a big pay rise, even if one is recommended, because people whose living standards are being “remorseless squeezed” would find it “impossible to understand”.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: “In 2009, Parliament took the important step of giving responsibility for MPs’ pay to Ipsa, as it was not right for MPs to decide their own pay.

“In 2010, Ipsa took responsibility for MPs’ pay. This was a decision I strongly supported.

“In determining any pay increase, Ipsa must take into account the current economic circumstances.”

MPs and members of the public will be able to take part in a consultation before Ipsa publishes its final plans – expected in the autumn – which would then come into force without need for further legislation.

Several reports claim the initial recommendations will suggest bringing an MPs basic salary close to £75,000 – though they would have to pay higher contributions towards their pensions.

MP Bridget Phillipson said: “My priority remains to fight for my constituents in Houghton and Sunderland South at a time when we have too many people out of work and families are struggling to make ends meet.

“I have not called for any changes to MPs’ pay.

“Any decision about MPs’ pay must reflect wider economic circumstances, and that is why it is right that MPs have had their pay frozen for several years, given the circumstances facing millions of workers.

“Furthermore any proposals from Ipsa will also rightly be subject to public consultation.”

The Commons voted against a one per cent pay rise in 2011, and last year agreed to extend the pay freeze into 2014. Salaries are due to rise to £67,060 from April 2014.

Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “Ipsa has the power to set MPs pay and should take into consideration the public sector pay freeze when they make their decision.

“I also believe that Ipsa should take into account that a considerable number of MPs have outside paid commercial interests such as consultancies and directorships. MPs who spend all of their time and energy working exclusively for their constituents should be fairly rewarded for that commitment.”

Sunderland folk against £10k pay rise

INCREASING MPs’ pay is not popular among unions, campaign groups and politics experts.

Unison regional officer Helen Coomer said: “I think the expected recommendations show that David Cameron’s favourite phrase ‘we are all in this together’ for what it really is – just a meaningless soundbite.

“Unison members that I deal with on a daily basis are worrying about whether they can feed their families.

“When MPs sit in Parliament on a daily basis thinking that it’s OK for them to give themselves a rise, it shows how out of touch with reality they are.

“If it goes ahead, it is possibly one of the most unfair things they have done so far.”

Sean Fahey, of the North East Pensioners Association, said: “I believe MPs have to be paid, but I also believe they have to set an example to the rest of us.

“I think 15 per cent is too much. Public sector pay restraints are about one per cent.

“It’s a bit quaint when they manage this proposed pay rise for themselves when the public sector are getting far less.

“I would ask them to tighten their belts.”

Sunderland University politics lecturer Peter Hayes said: “MPs are paid too much.

“It comes from an ethos which believes that we have to pay more for a better service.

“However, nurses and cleaners aren’t paid a lot and they do a fantastic job, so it shows the ethos isn’t true.

“Dennis Skinner always used to say that MPs should be paid the same as a skilled worker.

“MPs don’t actually have a lot of power themselves, but we think they need to be paid a lot of money so they fit in with their position in government, and it’s just not true.”