Coronavirus: MPs offered extra £10k to help with homeworking office costs

Zoe Tidman
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MPs will be able to claim an extra £10,000 in expenses to help their offices adjust to working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.

The additional funds have been made available to support staff needing to buy equipment to work remotely – such as paper, printers and computers – while people have been told to work remotely where possible in order to limit the spread of Covid-19.

“There will be an immediate increase of £10,000 to your office costs budget,” the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said in a bulletin announcing the changes.

“This is to cover any additional costs you may incur to set up working remotely as a result of coronavirus.”

The expanded budget will remain in place until next March.

Most MPs’ staff moved at very short notice from being based in Westminster, or in a constituency office, to working from home,” an IPSA spokesperson told The Independent.

“Many staff were not set up for home working, nor for supporting constituents remotely,” they said.

“This additional funding is to help them make that transition, while they deal with a huge increase in workload from distressed constituents as a result of coronavirus issues.”

Speaking on LBC radio station on Thursday, the culture secretary was asked by host Nick Ferrari how “wise” it was that extra funds had been made available to MPs’ offices while “a lot of people are in dire financial straits” during the pandemic.

Oliver Dowden said MPs had a “huge amount of case work” at the moment, adding: “I’ve certainly got vast increases in the number of people who are contacting me with concerns over coronavirus.”

“I believe this money is being used to help ramp up the capacity of MPs to deal with it,” he said.

“It’s not benefiting MPs personally. It’s ensuring they have the capacity to deal with these challenges.”

The chancellor has announced a host of measures – such as grants, loans and tax cuts – in a bid to help individuals and businesses deal with the financial blow of the pandemic.

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said on Wednesday he could not save every job, business or charity with his emergency schemes, adding: ”That’s just simply not possible.”

He said: ”I’ve been very clear and very honest that this will take a significant impact on our economy.”

Asked recently about whether nurses should get a pay rise, Matt Hancock, the health secretary said: “Now is not the moment to enter into a pay negotiation.”

The UK has been in lockdown for several weeks as it battles the Covid-19 outbreak, with people told to stay at home unless it is essential and all non-essential stores ordered to close.

The number of infections passed 60,000 on Wednesday, while the death toll stood at around 7,000.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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