“Flabbergasted!” Sunderland MPs react to inflation-busting pay rise

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A DECISION to award MPs an 11 per cent pay rise as thousands of voters across Sunderland struggle to pay their bills has been heavily criticised.

One Sunderland MP described how her constituents would be left “flabbergasted” if the move, which would see a rise in annual pay of £7,600 to £74,000, is given the green light.

Another described it as not “morally right” that MPs should benefit from such an inflation-busting boost while many on Wearside will be left relying on food banks this Christmas.

Westminster watchdog the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is set to recommend a rise, due to come in after the 2015 election.

But it is expected to meet mass disapproval when it is brought before Parliament on Thursday.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “I always supported the idea of an independent body deciding on MPs’ pay, but my constituents who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis will be flabbergasted if Ipsa forces through this rise. At a time when the Government is slashing support for the poorest and handing real terms pay cuts to millions of public sector workers, this decision would make it look completely out of touch with reality.

“If they do recommend these changes, I would hope that this would be one of the first things an incoming Labour government in 2015 would review.”

Grahame Morris, MP for Easington, said: “We have always said that decisions about MPs’ pay must be taken in the light of the current economic situation and the cost-of-living crisis facing families up and down Britain.

“My own son and many in my constituency are working long hours for the minimum wage, and nurses, teachers public-sector workers are all subject to this Government’s policies of austerity and suffering a cost-of-living crisis.

“In the circumstances, do I think it is morally right for MPs to have an inflation-busting pay rise? No I don’t.”

MPs currently earn a basic salary of £66,396, but Ipsa is expected to say on Thursday that their pay has fallen behind in recent years and a substantial one-off rise is justified.

Ipsa is set to conduct a statutory review of pay at the start of the next Parliament, at which point the rise could theoretically be reversed, but this remains unlikely. Julie Elliott, Sunderland Central’s MP, said: “At a time when millions of people are suffering from a cost-of-living crisis, my focus is on improving the lives of constituents in Sunderland Central, not on MPs’ pay.

“IPSA sets out MPs’ salaries, and I think it is right that such decisions are taken by an independent body.

“I will look closely at IPSA’s report when it is published on Thursday.”

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

“Any decision about MPs’ pay should be taken in light of this current economic situation.

“It is right that MPs pay and pensions are new set by an independent body.”

Ipsa previously said it had looked at increasing the current salary of £66,396 to anywhere between £73,365 and £83,430 but opted for a lower figure “in recognition of the current difficult economic circumstances”.

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