Universal credit and the wages of MPs 

There has long been debates over the topic of MP’s wages, with arguments surrounding their increase, decrease, and even removal entirely becoming a hotly contested dispute. While many believe that MPs are paid too much relative to the changes they see in their constituency, there are others who perceive them as undervalued given the number of hours they work and the inherent pressures of their jobs.  Regardless, it’s certainly bold to state that that living on a wage of £82,000 could be “grim,” as Sir Peter Bottomley claimed, especially when considering ever-frequent cuts to universal credit and other benefits.  

Bottomley openly discusses the wages of our countries MP’s, stating that he doesn’t “know how they manage,” referring specifically to younger MPs and their living costs. While Bottomley has since clarified his comments in relation to Universal Credit, expressing disapproval toward the removal of the £20 a week COVID top up, his initial remarks do raise several questions surrounding parliamentary income. The concerns surrounding MP’s wages are forged in comparison with the living conditions of both those on benefits, and average people nationwide.

To quantifiably contrast the wages of MP’s against the national average intensifies the debate. The base wage for MPs is £81,932 per year, on which they can expect to pay £25,718.68 in tax*, representing a take-home pay of £56,213.32. The average person’s salary in the UK, with median weekly earnings in June 2021 standing at £576 before tax, totals to an estimated take-home pay of £24,031.32 per year*. The median take-home pay for the average UK person is therefore less than half of their MP’s wage, not accounting for additional ministerial wages or secondary salaries arising from positions such as leading select committees. This data presents a huge disparity between the wages of MP’s and those of the average people they represent. It is therefore of questionable judgement to render the life of someone taking home over £55,000, a grim one.  

It’s even more shocking when remembered that monthly universal credit allowance for single people over the age 25 is just £324.84 (if the assessment period for the benefit ended before the 6th of  October). The brutal effects of these persistent cuts to universal credit are stark, with warnings suggesting that 800,000 people could be pushed into poverty and there are 100,00 renters at risk of eviction as a direct result. Further, with living costs rising, especially in the wake of COVID, it’s cruel of the government to continue to restrict benefits as their peers complain from their privileged positions. 

 It is surely fair then to criticise the comments made by Bottomly, as the regular people who face severe daily financial insecurity are being plunged into greater uncertainty. The government’s treatment of those who are reliant on benefits illustrates their disdain for the both the working class, and those unable to work. His comments present a dysfunctional societal paradigm, wherein the Government are unable to understand the struggles faced by those they are directly hindering, while actively continuing to push for detrimental policies, as explained by Wes Streeting.  

If there are MPs who truly struggle on their current salaries then this deserves to be addressed, perhaps in a reconfiguration of living costs and related regulation. Nobody deserves to feel financially vulnerable, so if this really is felt even by those on a salary £82,000 then surely there should be much greater empathy shown to those who live on universal credit. Measures need to be taken to support those who are in receipt of benefits and the disdain expressed towards those receiving universal credit by Conservative politicians needs to be eradicated. It’s unacceptable for politicians to complain of their wages whilst simultaneously slashing those of the country’s lowest earners. Such policy is unsustainable and poses great threats to the lifestyles of thousands of people. Whether the wages of MPs do truly deserve to be increased is surely secondary to the importance of supporting those who require universal credit. To argue otherwise shows a gross misunderstanding of the plight of low earing individuals nationwide.  

*Tax totals calculated using HMRC calculator.  

© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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