It's been a tough eighteen months for staff in the Commons. Afflicted by Covid in the initial first wave, mothballed by restrictions and virtual proceedings, forced to dance to Mogg congas and mask up with face coverings, the Palace of Westminster has rarely felt like itself this past year-and-a-half. And now Mr S has found the figures to show Covid's cost to the Commons after Parliament was forced to close its doors to visitors in March 2020.
Income from paid-for tours slumped from £2.1 million in 2019-20 to nil in 2020-21, according to a recently parliamentary answer by the House of Commons Commission. Staff had estimated to receive some £2.4 million, a significant chunk in income foregone. Catering costs spiralled to £4.6 million; retail ones rose to £850,000, with no education visits meaning a £600,000 reduction in the amounts spent on the school transport subsidy. Fortunately, no staff have been made redundant owing to the closure of hospitality and catering or the restrictions placed on the number of visitors to the estate. Tour teams have been reassigned to other roles, with no redundancies have been made, or are expected, according to Sir Charles Walker, the chair of the Commons Administration Committee.
Sadly, though Mr S hears of three potential redundancies looming in one parliamentary office. Owen Paterson's staff are set to be locked out of the estate tomorrow, just a week after the backbencher resigned from the Commons. There isn't much in the way of sympathy for the outgoing North Shropshire MP but staff are normally given a two month wind up period in which new postings can be found – something seemingly denied Paterson's team. While the Tories look set to retain the seat, there is of course no guarantee that the new MP will keep them on, with one assistant having worked there for more than 30 years.
While some in Parliament want to work two jobs, it seems others are content to merely just having one.