cleaning & gardening

french maidgardenAsked in May to review expenses by Downing Street, Sir Thomas Legg, a former civil servant, has applied new limits to categories like gardening (£1,000 a year) and cleaning (£2,000 a year). Both Gordon Brown, and Nick Clegg have made public their intentions to pay back money claimed for these activities.

Every household in the country would like the services of a cleaner and a gardener. Most of us either pay for these out of our pockets, or do without and do the work ourselves. Yet taxpayers are expected to fork out so Gordon Brown and company can keep the heirlooms dusted and their herbacious borders looking trim? In their second homes?

The recent spotlight on MPs expenses is long overdue. Of course they need some help. They are obliged to travel between their constituencies and Westminster sometimes several times a week. There is a great deal of paperwork, phone calls and emails involved so some kind of office and secretarial help is inevitable. Although by working class standards, they are very well paid, £64,766 pa, it is reasonable to expect some financial help in these areas.

They also often need to stay overnight in London. Here is where the trouble begins. Why is it a given that MPs should all have bijou London residences? All spotlessly clean with well tended gardens? At our expense? So they have somewhere to get pissed with their mates after a long day snoring in the Commons?

Scandals have always surfaced from time to time, detailing excesses of some of our elected leaders. Its not for us to point the finger or judge their off duty behaviour. The point here is who should pay for it. There is a world of difference between shelter for the night, and the kind of homes in London we are being asked to contribute to the upkeep of.

All kinds of people are obliged to spend many nights away from home in the course of their work. Truck drivers, sailors, musicians and actors are examples. Most of them are used to very humble sleeping arrangements and make the best of it. When they file their tax returns at the end of the year they righteously claim the cost of some of this as legitimate expenses.

In my self employed tax return I dont remember ever seeing a section for cleaning and gardening.

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