Norwich MP requests greater expenses for staff budget

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Images.

Norwich South MP Clive Lewis. Pic: Yui Mok/PA Images. - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A Norwich MP has asked to up his staffing budget as austerity and cutbacks put pressure on his team's workload.

MP for Norwich South, Clive Lewis, has applied for more expenses due to a 'breakdown of social infrastructure in the country'.

Under current rules, MPs can claim £150,900 staffing costs - rising in London - but expenses watchdog Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said in a report last month it had received requests for additional support.

'There were also requests to further increase MPs' staffing budgets due to their increasing workloads, some of which is the result of Brexit,' it stated.

Mr Lewis confirmed he was among those who had requested more.

He said: 'We're simply not coping with the volume of caseload. Public services are cut down to the bone and people can't survive on their benefits and they're struggling with issues such as housing and mental health problems.'

In a tweet yesterday Mr Lewis said: 'The main reason I've applied is due to 40 years of the hollowing out of public services via privatisation, the growing marketisation, profiteering and resulting chaos to those that remain public - all topped off by seven years of Tory austerity.'

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Mr Lewis says he has received 'a lot of negative feedback' following his tweet but insists he needs more expenses for his staff budget.

But Conservative spokesperson for Norwich South, Andrew Wiltshire, criticised the move.

He said: 'Clive's justification is weird, his comments on Twitter raise questions as to what the money is going to be used for.

'If he thinks public services have been depleted then he should go and campaign about that. It seems to be a case of how he thinks the public sector should be ran. It's bonkers.'

The application was made a month ago but Mr Lewis believes MPs have to 'exhaust' the staff budget before it can be considered by IPSA.

'We've kept aside a contingency budget of a few thousand pounds so we're in a real quandary as to whether to use this or not,' he said.

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat MP for North Norfolk, Richard Bacon, Conservative MP for South Norfolk, and Sir Henry Bellingham, Conservative for North West Norfolk confirmed they would not be requesting more funds.

Sir Henry said: 'I do believe it is important that [the staff allowance] goes up by inflation in order to protect the welfare, and interest of MPs' staff.

'As far as MPs' staff are concerned, in my experience the overwhelming majority work unbelievably hard for pay, that in most cases is fairly average. Incidentally, as far as my own staff are concerned, they regularly work longer hours than other people in the public sector, and substantially longer hours than most employees in the private sector.

'In my own experience, whilst the workload has increased very substantially over the last few years, at the same time we have become a lot more efficient and smarter with modern IT in terms of dealing with casework.'

He also said he expected increased workload related to Brexit would be temporary. But said it should be reviewed in a year and if it is still increasing, a staffing allowance increase by a 'modest amount' may be appropriate.

Other local MPs approached for comment did not respond by the time of publication.