So, let’s get this straight. Nicholas and Ann “ten a penny” Winterton have used the Commons’ Additional Costs Allowance to buy an expensive Westminster flat and, having bought it, have passed it onto a trust to which they now pay rent – via the Additional Costs Allowance.
Shocked? Horrified? Well, you should be, but not at the Wintertons. They are just taking advantage of a fundamentally flawed system. This trick is played by middle class families across the country on a daily basis – the Mail on Sunday commenter claiming that “One rule for all of us, another for MPs” could not be more wrong. And would it really be any less of a waste of taxpayers money if they had never used it to buy a property and instead enriched a private landlord, as a number of MPs self-consciously and piously do? In that respect I have to take issue with Dr Pack over at Lib Dem Voice: the system is most certainly not “reasonable enough.”
If MPs were serious about reform, they’d scrap the ACA and replace it with a trust which MPs could use to buy or subsidise accomodation. If that asset were ever realised, the equity purchased by the trust would simply revert to the trust. This is hardly revolutionary – it’s how the government’s own shared equity scheme for key workers operates. Instead of blowing Â£20,000 per MP every year, that money would be recycled every time an MP vacated their seat. Given the nature of the housing market, the taxpayer would probably end up making a tidy profit.
But of course, that would mean admitting that the wealth accrued from such investments is fundamentally unearned and a drain on the economy. MPs dare not admit that as it could be the thin end of the wedge. Next thing you know, people would start demanding we tax this unearned wealth in exchange for tax breaks elsewhere. Revolution!