MPs’ expenses: the best tools and resources on the web
Interested in the MPs' expenses scandal? Here's a round up of the best resources and tools. Let me know if I've missed any.
The official redacted files
This is where Parliament's heavily redacted files are published. You pick an MP's name, and then you can download PDFs of receipts for each year for the three main claims: additional costs allowance, incidental expenses and communications allowance.
Cabinet expenses in full: the Telegraph's uncensored files
The Telegraph has published Cabinet MPs expenses 'in full'. While this does include key details censored from the official files, it's not quite everything.
Sensitive information, such as precise addresses, phone numbers and bank account details have been removed.
Also, they've published the additional costs allowance receipts, but not the other ones - and it's the incidental expenses that are the biggest files. (Given it cost Parliament £1 million to redact the full set, I can see why they've done this - but it's a shame we can't see the incidental expenses receipts as they have some of the most interesting smaller claims in).
To use it, you choose a cabinet member and the year you want to see.
Crowd sourcing analysis
There are still untold stories in the receipts. For instance, I noticed that:
- Peter Lilley claimed for a Sat Nav and several books on the problems of capitalism (even though he used to be Tory shadow chancellor!)
- Anne Main claimed for a portable air conditioner.
- Current Schools Minister Ed Balls has his children at a school near to his second home - even though that local council requires proof of main residence before admitting children.
Here are the two main ways you can join in the analysis of the data - essentially you look at one of the official PDFs, and then upload anything interesting you see.
Guardian: Investigate your MP's expenses
With the Guardian's crowd-sourced analysis tool, you can look at a page at random or choose one.
Then you mark whether it's a claim, proof, blank or other - this lets the Guardian tag the pages, allowing for better analysis.
You also mark whether it's interesting or not, and known about (EG a duckhouse) or not.
There's a rundown of what people have uncovered so far.
What They Claimed has another crowdsourcing tool for revealing details of MPs' expenses.
To help, you can check the PDFs and add details to a Google Spreadsheet. You can see the data, and search by claim, category or MP.
You can read the background to the site here.
Analysing the data
MPs' expenses compared to debate participation
This table shows total expenses claimed in 2008 vs participation in the current parliamentary session. There's also a ratio showing the amount claimed in expenses divided by the percentage of debates attended.
MP' expenses analysis
Takes data from a number of sources and lets you analyse it in different ways, giving a rich view of individual MPs' and parties' claims.
They Work For You - total figures by MP
At They Work For You, you can find out all sorts about MPs - speeches, voting records, facts - and also a summary of their expenses (and where they rank from most to least claims) going back to 2001. The figures are totals rather than individual claims.
Expense claims vs safety of seat
Mark Reckons shows that the safer the seat, the more the MP generally claimed in expenses.
This is the last of his posts.
You can link through from that post to two earlier ones he did based on earlier, smaller data sets.
Visualising the data
Tables of data aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people have taken the data and tried to show what it means visually.
Visaulising MPs expenses using scatter plots, charts and maps
Tony Hirst has published several maps and charts of the data allowing you to look for patterns or specific information, such as this interactive bar chart and this interactive map of MPs' travel expenses.
ShootHill have done a colour-coded heatmap so you can see the geographical spread of expense claims.
A mash up of data from various data sources. Shows constituencies by party and the size of each 'pin' shows how much they claimed. Useful for quick whizz round the data.
Read stories about MPs expenses
The three best places to find stories about MPs' expenses are:
Heather Brooke started all this with her Freedom of Information request to see the details of expenses. You can read her blog: Your Right to Know.
There's also a good interview with Heather brooke in May from the Guardian.
Analysis of the way the story is unfolding
- Stories about MPs' expenses reporting at journalism.co.uk
- Martin Belam on MPs expenses, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and the 'open' and 'closed' models of 21st century journalism
- The Telegraph's Ian Douglas on MPs' expenses: the unredacted files
- The Guardian on The breakneck race to build an application to crowdsource MPs' expenses.
Freedom of Information Act explained
Some useful resources:
- What do They Know - File and browse FOI requests
- Direct Gov - The government site on how to make FOI claims
- Information Commissioner's Office - Advice for public bodies on dealing with FOI requests.
- Campaign for Freedom of Information - The non-profit, non-political organisation working to ensure the FOI Act is properly implemented. They also run the UK Freedom of Information blog.