MPs Claim Childcare Unaffordable on £80k Salaries
Childcare hit the news for an unexpected reason as several MPs faced increasing criticism for taking second jobs in addition to their parliamentary duties. While the bulk of the scandal has focussed on alleged rule-breaking by parliamentarians, particularly suspicions that some may have campaigned on behalf of those offering them lucrative consultancies, many have questioned why MPs require additional jobs at all.
One answer, according to an anonymous MP speaking to the Financial Times’ Sebastian Payne is childcare:
“There’s no way I could be an MP without my outside interests. My wife works full-time, I’ve got kids and need the money for childcare.”
Given that MPs are paid £82,000 a year, there has been a certain amount of scepticism about this response.
However, some journalists have argued that there may be something to it. Writing in the New Statesman, Rachel Cunliffe points out that if both parents work very long hours, as MPs and their spouses often do, they may require childcare outside of normal hours. Depending on where they are in the country, that may not be available at a nursery and could mean hiring a nanny. She suggests a cost of £25,000 plus tax, national insurance and pension contributions, likely in addition to ordinary nursery hours.
The trouble with this analysis of course is that parents working long hours in jobs such as nursing, social work or even running their own business may earn far less and be unable to moonlight in a lucrative consultancy, and yet somehow manage. No-one is doubting that childcare is expensive and the hodgepodge of funding options is hard to navigate, but treating MPs as a special case is unlikely to be popular. If a solution is needed, it will have to apply to everyone, not just those responsible for making policy.