As the Conservative candidate for Esher & Walton during the general election campaign, I made clear that I would not accept a pay rise for MPs, while salaries for the rest of the public sector remained frozen or capped at 1%. Now, re-elected as your MP, I will be true to my word.
Every MP must come to their own decision – and be accountable locally to voters for their position. Equally, I am not against a pay rise in general. In truth, MPs’ pay was artificially held down for many years, while pay in comparable public sector jobs increased. This creates a very real risk that we end up deterring talented people from modest backgrounds from entering politics. Pay for MPs is also now set by an independent body, not politicians themselves. It was that body which proposed the current pay rise as part of a package including less generous pensions and other cost-saving measures. My specific objection is to the timing – I don’t think I can accept such a pay rise, when all other public sector pay is frozen or capped at 1%.
Oddly, MPs cannot actually refuse this pay rise. So, I have nominated to donate my pay rise to the Elmbridge Community Fund (ECF). Why? Although Elmbridge is sometimes caricatured as a universally wealthy borough, there are pockets of very real disadvantage and many people need support. We also historically have got a poor deal in terms of local funding from central government – which the government has started to put right. Since being launched in January, the ECF provides grants to support local community and voluntary groups who are making a difference, such as Walton Stroke Group or Oasis Children’s Centre (in Cobham).
We want the ECF to become a permanent fund and grow over time. I hope that this contribution will provide more support for vulnerable neighbourhoods or families and communities across Elmbridge – and, above all, encourage other potential donors to come forward to help us build this community fund.