Friday, 29 May 2009

Trust Even for MPs?

At a speech this week on giving people trust and freedom (key components of creating a great workplace) I was asked how that fitted with the MPs expenses scandal? We were just down the road from parliament at Millbank and the questioner wanted to know if this is what happened when you trusted people.

My answer was that trust needs to be combined with transparency. It is unlikely that they would have made such extravagant claims if they had known the details would be published. Or will in the future, now that they know the details will be available to all.

Indeed that is a possible solution for all companies. Instead of complex expenses rules you could have one that simply stated: “Claim what is reasonable, but be aware the details will be available for anybody in the company to see, on the intranet.”

The common complaint of MPs has been that their salaries have not been allowed to rise and so they have had to rely on the expenses allowance as effective income. A quick check of the facts shows this to be total nonsense. In 1983 the MPs’ salary was £14,500. If it had kept pace with inflation, it would now stand at £32,180. If it had increased in line with average earnings the salary would now be £51,952. In fact they are now paid £64,766 a year. So they earn over three times median earnings (revealed by the TUC this week as £19,600) and have had rises over the last 25 years well in excess of most people.

Fancy a Jog from Birmingham to London?

I met up with my sister at the weekend after she ran from Birmingham. Now I wouldn’t mind cycling from Britain’s second city to London. But running along the canal, through the night, is a whole different achievement. 148 miles in total, taking just under 40 hours – and you get disqualified if you take a break of 40 minutes or more.

As the web site (, this is Britain's longest, toughest, non-stop running race. I met Lindsey in Southall (there was a 4 mile diversion from the canal), 135 miles in and found her a little bit down. But we remembered the classic Lance Armstrong line (“Pain is temporary, quitting is forever”) and she was soon back on track.

A remarkable achievement. I wonder what she will do next?