Westcountry MPs have variously criticised their pay and perks watchdog for proposing a 11% pay rise in 2015.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), set up following the expenses scandal, confirmed they deserve a “one-off uplift” in their annual salaries to £74,000. They currently earn £66,000.
Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Opposition leader Ed Miliband have all indicated an inflation-busting increase is unacceptable amid austerity and public sector pay restraint.
However, Ipsa chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said the deal spells the end of “political deals cooked up in Westminster”. He said: “We are sweeping away the out-of-date and overly generous benefits, and introducing a one-off uplift in pay. Crucially, thereafter MPs’ pay will be linked to everyone elses.”
Ipsa also recommended scrapping resettlement payments worth tens of thousands of pounds, introducing a career average pension at the expense of a final salary scheme, and a tighter expenses regime, including ending the provision for evening meals. Ipsa said the package would not cost the taxpayer more.
MPs in the region offered a range of reactions, with some indicating support for pay reform even if the timing was badly-judged.
Nick Harvey, Liberal Democrat MP for North Devon, said: “It would clearly be inappropriate in the present economic circumstances.
“However, the proposal covers the 2015-2020 period. No one can know today how the economy and general salary progression will work out over the next seven years.
“It seems to me that the matter should be kept under review as it remains to be seen to what extent the economy recovers and normality returns over that seven year period.”
Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, renewed his claim that Ipsa appeared to be on a mission to “destroy the credibility and public confidence in MPs”.
He said: “My blood is boiling. It remains my view historically that MPs are underpaid, most people in communities would recognise that we are historically underpaid, but we shouldn’t be discussing it now at a time of austerity.”
And Sarah Wollaston, Conservative MP for Totnes, warned a “Dutch auction” will “exclude many candidates and favour wealthy”. She went on: “Either we want MPs to set their own pay and pensions or we don’t. I don’t.” Others pledged not to benefit if re-elected. Anne Marie Morris, Conservative MP for Newton Abbot, said: “Should this rise go through in 2015, I will make sure that I do not personally benefit from it, but after tax and NI will put the additional money into a separate account and use it for the benefit of my constituency and constituents.”
Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth, said: “I have always been clear that pay restraint affecting the public sector should apply to me, along with public servants in my constituency.
“It is clear to me the public don’t want candidates squabbling over whether or not they should accept a rise in 2015, they want the proposals dropped, and dropped now. My absolute focus is on achieving this.”
Adrian Sanders, Liberal Democrat MP for Torbay, said: “If I am fortunate enough to be re-elected to serve my home town in Parliament in 2015 I will be able to work out how much my overall income will have risen or fallen as a consequence of this package, and if it rises above inflation I will give the surplus to charity.”
Ben Bradshaw, Labour MP for Exeter, said: “I have always made clear that if they do impose an above-inflation rise after the election, and I am still an MP, I would give any extra to charity.”
Other MPs argued the recommendations are not final. Hugo Swire, Conservative MP for East Devon, said: “The Government made it clear in the consultation that Ipsa should take into account overall public service pay and pensions restraint when addressing the issue of MPs’ pay. We are disappointed that Ipsa has not done so.
“We will continue to make the case that Ipsa should take into account overall public sector pay and pensions restraint, and that the cost of politics should go down.”
Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: “The party leaders should now get together and come up with a cross-party request to Ipsa to re-consider the whole package.”
Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said: “My first priority is to get re-elected, so this will not be an issue until it comes up after the election. The important thing is to reduce the size and cost of politics.”