MPs have been told they will be able to claim for Christmas party spending on expenses for the first time.
It means the UK taxpayer will be footing the bill for the food and drink at staff Christmas parties this year, triggering a huge backlash, reports The Manc.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), an expenses watchdog set up largely in response to the 2009 expenses scandal, has defended the news and said it is ‘entirely appropriate’ that MPs should be able to reward their staff.
Alcohol cannot be included in the hospitality claim, according to guidance from IPSA.
The watchdog issued the guidance in response to questions about how MPs could celebrate the festive season. It said: “MPs can claim the costs of food and refreshments for an office festive.”
Christmas decorations like lights, a tree and baubles can also be expensed under ‘festive decorations’.
MPs were told their claims should ‘represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate’.
Addressing the backlash, IPSA released a statement that says: “We are aware of concerns regarding the rules for MPs’ festive and celebratory claims. Our rules have not changed.
“MPs employ, on average, five members of staff in their local constituencies to deal with casework from members of the public. These cases are often distressing for the constituent and staff member alike and working in that environment day in and day out is very challenging.
“As employers, it is entirely appropriate that MPs should, if they see fit, reward their staff with a modest gathering at Christmas.
“We are clear that alcohol is not included, that any event must represent value for money, is subject to publication for transparency and must not be party political in nature. It must be funded within existing budgets.
“To suggest that there is anything inappropriate in this is simply incorrect. We are disappointed with the interpretation of this normal employment practice at a time when MPs are receiving large amounts of abuse, particularly on social media.”
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