Politician's £45,000 travel expenses
A Labour politician has said he may reduce the number of constituency meetings he attends after his £44,985 travel expenses claim was revealed in a Freedom of Information case against the House of Commons.
British taxpayers foot the bill for politicians' expenses that many employers would scoff at -- such as train and taxi fares for London-based Members of Parliament travelling a few miles to work.
But the major expenses claims come from MPs who routinely travel the length of the country to their northern constituencies.
In the case of Eric Joyce, Labour MP for Falkirk some 350 miles from London, near Glasgow in Scotland, that lead to an expenses claim that even the MP himself has queried as not "feasible". (BBC News, 14 February)
Curiosity may lead us to ask how Mr Joyce could spend so much on travel, especially when we consider that Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney -- an island 530 miles from London -- claimed £6,235 less.
E-mail enquiries to both of Mr Joyce's offices yesterday morning remain unanswered. (Surprising as we know he has staff -- we pay their £78,615 salaries.)
While taxpayers may feel a sense of distaste over politicians filing travel expense claims that exceed many family incomes, voters in Mr Joyce's Falkirk constituency may be more concerned by his intention to now review how many local meetings he attends.
Without taking a cut in his £59,686 salary, Mr Joyce will apparently consider a reduction in his workload to save money on travel. The alternative solution of reducing his travel expenses seems to have escaped him.
Surely £44,985 per year can cover regular 700-mile round journeys?
Well, if Mr Joyce is determined to travel in style then a private helicopter could whisk him from London to Falkirk, wait a few hours while he attends his meeting, and then take him back to London. At £7,050 for the round trip, though, perhaps that's a little costly for even the most extravagant politician. Mr Joyce would only be able to attend meetings every couple of months.
Much more affordable would be a luxury chauffeur-driven car, which at £800 door-to-door and back again would be well within Mr Joyce's budget, allowing him to head north for meetings every week. He'd even save the taxpayer a few thousand pounds.
Or he could slum it with the rest of us on public transport. He'd be looking at £500 for the full return journey by train (first class of course) with a two-way taxi transfer, including an overnight stay in a top hotel and a couple of slap-up meals. At that price Mr Joyce could head north twice nearly every week.
Swap the first class train ticket for a standard economy flight and the bill for the journey drops to a very reasonable £200, still including the same high quality hotel, meals and taxi transfers.
But a figure like that would leave Mr Joyce agonising over another quandary: There wouldn't be enough days in the year to spend his travel allowance.
* Helicopter charter quote from Biggin Hill Helicopters. Chauffeur-drive quote from Cars for Stars. Train quote from National Rail Enquiries, multiple vendors. Economy flight quote from EasyJet.