What do MPs spend public money on?
Date published: January 13, 2021
An important part of the role of an MP is to represent their constituents in the House of Commons and to provide support to people and groups within their constituency.
Each year we publish the Scheme of MPs’ Staffing and Business Costs which sets out information about the budgets we provide to MPs and the principles and rules about how MPs can spend these public funds.
The most important principle is MPs can only use their budgets for parliamentary purposes, in other words, they can use the money to support their role as an MP.
They cannot use it for costs related to party political or campaigning costs, or to support a ministerial role.
We provide MPs with four main budgets to support their parliamentary work: staffing, office costs, accommodation and travel.
London MPs are given slightly higher Staffing and Office Costs budgets due to the increased costs within the London area. There are 96 London MPs, decided by their proximity to the Houses of Parliament.
The Staffing budget is by far the largest budget. In 2020-21, each MP has a budget of £177,550 or £188,860 for London MPs. MPs employ an average of four full-time equivalent staff members to support constituents and assist them with parliamentary work.
MPs have the discretion to decide how to manage their offices in the most appropriate way to carry out their parliamentary duties.
According to the Office of National Statistics, there are between 56,000 and 72,000 electors within each constituency. Your MP is someone you can turn to if there are no other agencies to help. MPs answer queries, hold surgeries and help to resolve complex issues.
Over the past few years, MPs have seen a rise in the volume of casework and heavily rely on their team of constituency staff, and often volunteers, to provide the best possible support to constituents in need.
MPs can also employ parliamentary assistants or researchers to ensure that they are fully prepared for speeches, debates, questions, motions, meetings and interviews. Westminster staff undertake research on relevant subjects, and analyse, evaluate and interpret data to ensure the MP is accurately informed on key issues with up-to-date knowledge on parliamentary business.
The second-largest budget is for Office Costs. In 2020-21, MPs can claim up to £25,910, or £28,800 for London MPs, to pay for the usual costs of running a business including rent, equipment and stationery.
MPs have the discretion to decide how to spend their office costs budget.
The 554 MPs for constituencies outside of London are in the unusual position of having two places of work: their constituency and London. Because of this, non-London MPs have an Accommodation budget to help to cover the cost of somewhere to stay in one of these locations.
In 2020-21 MPs can claim up to £16,120 outside of London or £23,010 in London.
The accommodation budget can cover rent and bills, or MPs can claim the cost of staying in a hotel. If an MP owns the second property, they cannot use the budget for mortgage payments or rent, but they can claim a proportion of utility costs in some circumstances.
MPs who have dependants can receive additional funding to enable them to find accommodation large enough for their family to travel and stay with them to help them to maintain their family life.
The Travel budget provides funding for MPs to travel between Westminster and London, around their constituency, within the UK and Europe for parliamentary purposes.
We also provide funding for an MP’s spouse, partner and dependants to travel with them, again so that they can maintain their family life and care for their dependants. While there are rules around the types of journey that MPs and their dependants can take, the Travel budget is uncapped so that MPs are not restricted on how many times they can move between London and their constituency.
MPs cannot claim for their usual commute to and from work each day.
MPs can claim for any ticket that is equal to, or less than, the standard daily fare for the journey.
Some MPs choose to book in advance to secure first-class tickets for less than the standard daily fare so that they have more privacy and space to work during their journeys.
Disability and Security
MPs also have access to Disability and Security budgets. The Disability budget provides funding to support reasonable adjustments for MPs with disability needs. It helps them fulfil their responsibilities under the Equality Act, by funding reasonable adjustments for staff members, volunteers, job applicants or constituents visiting their office or surgery.
The Security budget provides funding for the cost of security measures that are recommended by the police to keep MPs, their staff and their families safe.
Unlike the other budgets, we publish the total cost of security and disability measures for all MPs, rather than individual costs, in line with our Publication Policy.
In the UK, MPs are given budgets as opposed to allowances.
MPs are not given the money in advance. Instead, they claim money from the budgets once they have submitted paperwork or evidence to verify the costs. If an MP spends more than their budget, they must repay the money from their own pocket or, if they have exceptional circumstances, they can apply to our Contingency Panel for additional funding.
All public money spent by MPs is published on our website to ensure that everyone can see how MPs spend public money.
Visit our learn more about MPs' Staffing and Business Costs.