IPSA’s fourth Parliament – our story since the last general election
IPSA is a unique organisation. We are the first independent regulator of MPs business costs to be established, with the task of supporting and regulating our democratic representatives at the same time.
Our vision is to help restore trust in our political system, not only by providing accountability for costs but also by ensuring MPs and their staff have the resources they need to do their important work in their constituencies and in Parliament.
Over the past two years, along with the rest of the country, we have faced a series of unique challenges and have helped respond to the challenges faced by MPs and their staff.
Below is an overview of our experience since the last general election and what we hope to achieve in the years to come.
Each year we process around 180,000 business cost claims. Of the claims submitted in 2019-20, 99.97% were compliant with the rules.
In 2020-21, despite the disruption of the pandemic, compliance remained high at 99.7%.
This means MPs and their staff continue to be well regulated and demonstrate a clear understanding of what is allowed under our Scheme of MPs Staffing and Business Costs.
Assuring the public
Each year 160,000 claims are published on a bi-monthly and annual basis. This attracts a lot of interest, so we take great care to ensure the data is fair and accurate.
In 2019-20, the information we published was 99.99% accurate, falling only slightly to 99.83% during the pandemic. We held consultations with the public on policy changes, and published assurance reports to ensure our decisions were correct.
This builds on our commitment to assure the public that MPs spending is well regulated and above board.
Supporting MPs and their staff
On average, all claims submitted to us over the past two years were paid within an eight-day window.
This means MPs and their staff received the resources they required when they were needed, helping them deliver value to their communities.
We continued to process around 4,800 contract changes and set up 450 new homes or offices each year and answered hundreds of emails and telephone calls. In our 2021 survey of MPs and staff, satisfaction with our services increased by 50%.
How we responded to challenges
When the pandemic began, it was important to recognise the extraordinary situation faced by MPs and their staff.
MPs often become the last resort for people who have been unable to find support elsewhere, and so during the pandemic, MPs’ offices experienced a surge in demand.
To help with the increased casework – and ensure MPs and their staff remained safe – we introduced an emergency £10,000 uplift to MPs’ Office Costs Budget and an extra supplement to the Staffing budget.
This helped MPs and their staff continue to support their constituents during the pandemic.
For a time, we used the ONS figure on the annual change in public sector pay to determine MPs’ pay each year.
Because of the circumstances of the pandemic, we decided MPs' pay would remain unchanged for 2020-21 to reflect the economic realities faced by constituents.
We also reviewed our policy for determining MPs’ pay in the future, including the option to not use the ONS figure in unusual circumstances.
This means we can make better and fairer determinations when it comes to MPs’ pay.
We are also helping make Parliament a more inclusive place to work. We consulted on funding for additional staffing when MPs take parental leave and implemented a bespoke Parental Leave Cover Fund in the 2021-22 financial year.
We are working to provide this support for all MPs who need an extended absence.
The safety of our MPs has sadly become a major concern following the murders of Jo Cox and Sir David Amess. We are dedicated to helping both MPs and their staff remain safe as they do their jobs.
We introduced an additional business cost type that helps MPs employ a security operative during their public surgeries to ensure their safety when meeting strangers. We are also conducting a review of how we publish data to minimise security threats to MPs.
What’s next for IPSA?
In 2021, we set out our corporate plan for the next three years. Our objective is to provide an exemplary, seamless regulatory service that enables MPs to focus on what really matters – supporting and representing their constituents.
We will drive wide-ranging improvements to how we support MPs through improved processes and engagement while ensuring our Scheme is intuitive, simple and responsive to MPs’ needs.
We are dedicated to developing a customer-centric culture that empowers our staff to be rigorous.
Ultimately, we will continue working to gain the trust of both MPs and the public so they have confidence that we deliver a value-for-money service as well as robust, transparent regulation.