Why does MPs’ spending vary so much?

When you look at MPs’ staffing and business costs, it’s easy to compare how much money MPs spend. 

It’s often thought that MPs who spend more offer less value for money.  This isn’t the case. 

The costs an MP incurs often depend on circumstance – including where they're based, the type of constituency they represent, how long they've been an MP, and the needs of their employees.  

IPSA Blog Spending

Constituencies

An MP represents their constituency in Parliament. This means they are in the unusual position of having two primary places of work – Westminster and their constituency.  

The location and size of their constituency impact the costs they incur. 

MPs representing Scottish or Northern Irish constituencies are likely to spend a lot more of their Travel budget than MPs closer to London. 

Similarly, London MPs need larger office and staffing budgets because the cost of living in London is much higher.  

Constituencies can also affect MPs’ spending in other ways. A single constituency can cover an area so large it becomes impractical for an MP to have only one office as they may need to work from multiple locations to provide support to all their constituents. As well as size, the population of constituencies can vary. This has an effect on the resources required by MPs and their staff.

Those representing rural constituencies may submit more claims for the cost of travelling to meet people. MPs in a town or city can spend less on travel while paying a higher rate for their office.  

MPs’ costs typically increase when there is a crisis affecting their constituents, such as flooding or sudden mass unemployment, where extra staff and overtime are often needed to help the people who are affected. 

Because of this, incurring higher costs doesn’t mean the MP is spending excessively, they simply require greater resources to support their constituents.  

Personal circumstances 

There shouldn’t be any barriers to becoming an MP – and we provide funding to ensure everyone is included. 

Some MPs have dependants that can make working from multiple locations quite difficult. We offer extra accommodation funding to help MPs meet their caring responsibilities while they do their job.  

Like everyone else, MPs might also need to take periods of leave, such as parental or sick leave. We provide additional staff funding to MPs on leave so that important work can continue in their absence.  

New MPs also have access to a budget to enable them to set up their offices, advertise jobs and buy essential equipment. In addition, we take care of all necessary security and disability funding to ensure MPs, their staff and their families are safe and fully supported. These budgets are uncapped and published in aggregate. 

MPs’ staff 

When an MP is elected, they become an employer, sometimes for the first time in their life. The majority of their budget is spent on the staff they need to help support and represent their constituents. 

As with any employee, an MP’s staff will have personal circumstances that require different levels of support. They can fall ill, meaning an MP will have to find another temporary staff member while ensuring their employee receives the sick pay they are entitled to.  In common with the rest of the population, their staff are entitled to parental leave. These increased costs are part of the employment rights we all have at work.  

There is also funding within an MP's staffing budget for training and welfare.  MPs are encouraged to use this money so their teams are well placed to carry out their work.  

Parliamentary duties 

Each MP can choose how to carry out their parliamentary duties. Some spend a lot of time in their constituency meeting constituents, hosting surgeries, and communicating with people in a range of ways.  

Others spend more time in Westminster, representing their constituents in the House of Commons at committees and other working groups.  

The different approaches mean costs can vary. Higher spending might therefore mean an MP is delivering more value, rather than less.  

Covid-19 budget 

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we provided a £10,000 budget for each MP to help keep their team safe as they continued to support constituents.  

Some MPs chose not to use this budget while other MPs used it to equip themselves and their team to work remotely.  

Although the Covid budget would increase an MPs’ overall spending, the measures were necessary to help them to work throughout the pandemic. 

Assessing value 

It’s tempting to look at the total amount an MP claims in a year as a measure of their value, but there are too many variables within an MP’s staffing and business costs to make this a meaningful assessment.  

A hard-working MP will incur costs while carrying out their parliamentary work and delivering value for their constituents.  

At IPSA, we regulate MPs’ spending so they can focus on parliamentary work and increase their effectiveness in supporting the people they represent. 

Learn about MPs’ claims

Discover how and why MPs claim for their staffing and business costs.

Read about MPs’ staffing and business costs

How we publish MPs’ costs

Learn about how we publish details of MPs’ claims.

Read our Publication Policy