Letters, Monday, February 14th. 2011

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Expenses for local government staff

THE Echo (February 5) reported on eight local MPs’ expenses for two months totalling £31,993.

In Britain there are also many thousands of local government employees who also receive expenses but receive substantially less than an MP’s salary of £65,723. These include employees who use their own car for the benefit of the employer’s business transport policy.

Each year the employers and unions meet to agree the mileage rate to be paid. In 2010 they agreed the maximum engine size at 1450cc at a rate of 65p per mile to cover travel from April 2010 to March 2011 and at a fixed fuel cost of 111.74 per litre (the price in January 2010).

As we all know fuel exceeded this early last year, the underpayment being paid by the employees from their after-tax income. The cost of running a car has risen sharply over recent years, likewise fuel. Employees also need Class 1 business insurance, which is considerably more than social/domestic including commuting.

Employees are also in the middle of a three-year pay freeze, unlike MPs, but unbelievably employees have to pay tax on their meagre expenses – everything over 40p per mile is taxed at the employee’s highest rate. The Government thinks it only costs 40p a mile to run a car and has done so for the last 10 years.

Fuel currently stands at 132p per litre, or £6 per gallon, and employees are subsidising each gallon by 97p of taxed income.

If MPs’ expenses were treated like local government employees’ and taxed for everything over 40p in the pound, Bridget Phillipson MP’s sum of £5,859 would be £2,343 tax free, £3,516 taxed at 40 per cent, leaving £2,109, so Ms Phillipson would receive £4,452.

The underpayment created by fixing the fuel cost at the preceding January’s fuel cost has gone on for 10 years since the first fuel crises where fuel exceeded £1 per litre, employees paying the difference.

Overtaxed Basic Rate Taxpayer, Wearside

Misguided lament

IF the leader column of the Echo is any guide, it could be said that the writer of the piece found no problem in swallowing hook, line and sinker the words of wisdom gifted to us by the leader of the Labour Party when he graced or region with a visit on Friday, February 4.

The Sunderland Echo needs to be reminded that Labour were charged with the governance of this country of 13 years before the present bunch relieved them of that obligation.

In spite of what the Labour Party would have us believe, for the North East it was 13 years of uninterrupted economic decline with rising unemployment and a growing feeling that we were a region left to rot.

When Labour left office in May 2010 the percentage of those in Sunderland of working age who were wholly dependent on state benefits was greater than at any time since the slump of the 1920s and 30s.

How on earth the Echo found the nerve to lament the passing of good times under Labour leads me to believe that the writer of this column didn’t have a clue about what was going on in his own backyard.

Edmund Burke, South Bailey, Durham

British republic

I WAS interested in Mr Green’s letter about why we’ve preferred having a monarchy to a republic. May I add one point? In 1775 British citizens rebelled against their king and did establish a republic. Of course, I’m talking about the rebels in the 13 American colonies. They were the true heirs of the men who fought the king in the English Civil War.

You could say the United States began as a British republic, only on the other side of the Atlantic. It was run by British gentlemen-farmers such as George Washington and remained a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant country for decades until the influx of European immigrants changed its ethnic make-up.

So, if the gentleman from Washington wants to live in a republic, my advice is: pack your bags and go to Washington DC.

John Napier, Providence Court, Providence Row, Durham

Royal surnames

HENRY Whipple wrote an amusing letter about someone called Joe Bloggs becoming a future king of England. But he made a big mistake. When the Queen came to the throne, she issued a proclamation that all her descendants would belong to the House of Windsor, and they would bear the surname Mountbatten-Windsor.

This is why I’m puzzled Prince William has always used the surname Wales throughout his military career.

There is no doubt that the Queen will be the last British princess to marry a prince from a foreign royal house. In future princesses will marry commoners. And when commoners become kings, the institution of monarchy will undergo serious changes.

By the way, if you think Joe Bloggs is a funny name for a king, I’ve known people called Ramsbottom, Pigg, Duck, Freelove and Bottomley.

K. Livingstone, Partridge Close, Washington