MPs' expenses body IPSA seeking new director


The MPs' expenses body has advertised for an £80,000-a-year operations director, after the last one quit "for the sake of my health and sanity".

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority says the job involves making sure it is a "cost effective" body.

Ipsa has been attacked by some MPs over the new expenses system it oversees, as well as its own running costs.

In June, Nigel Gooding quit as interim operations director, saying he "desperately" needed a break.

At the time Ipsa said his had been a temporary appointment during its "start-up phase".

His job was advertised on Wednesday on a salary of between £80,000 and £85,000.

The expenses watchdog has been under attack from MPs struggling to get to grips with the new online claims system and other aspects of a revised - and less generous - expenses system introduced for the new parliamentary term.

It has also been told to cut its costs by the committee of MPs which oversees its budget - and there have been reports of rows between MPs and Ipsa staff.

Last week the head of the body, Sir Ian Kennedy, said he knew "not everything is perfect" but said MPs' issues and concerns were often not raised directly with Ipsa.

He added: "We find ourselves in a situation where myths are peddled with such enthusiasm that they become received wisdom."

The body has also outlined changes to the expenses scheme - "to correct anomalies and unintended consequences" from the original plans and other details to be published by Ipsa.

'Perverse incentive'

It has relaxed rules for MPs with constituencies outside London - but who own a property in the city - by allowing them to claim for running costs.

Under the new rules, MPs were only meant to be able to claim for hotel stays, or rented property and running costs.

But Ipsa admitted that had created a "perverse incentive" for those who owned London properties not to live in them, but to rent a third property instead - in order to claim back bills.

It has also said MPs' claims that have been refused will be published - although only after September, to give them time to get used to the new system.

The influential Conservative 1922 committee had raised concerns that doing so would mean MPs would be reluctant to submit genuine claims "for fear of the reputational damage the slightest mistake will cause".

Ipsa has also ruled that staff salaries will be published - although the exact figure will not be, instead they will be listed in bands of £5,000. Employees will not be named - unless they are married or otherwise connected to the MP.

The origin, destination and category of journeys claimed for by MPs will be published, but not the exact times of those journeys - due to security concerns.

It will only publish an overall figure for expenses on security measures - not each individual's claims - but said the budget was purely for measures that the police or security service had advised Ipsa were necessary.