The cost of working adds up, honestly

29th May 2009 at 01:00

I'm going to come clean. After much soul-searching, I have decided that honesty is the only policy. Before I go further, though, I want to make it clear that everything I have done was within the rules.

As you know, accountancy is not my subject, it's English. And what with a full teaching load and an inspection to prepare for, I have been very busy. So it's just possible that I might inadvertently have missed something, for which I apologise in advance.

Let's start with travelling costs. I know it might seem a lot, but the sad truth is I do have to travel to teach my students. However hard I try, I can't get them to come to me. And travelling on the London tube and trains is expensive these days. So, under the circumstances, an annual figure of Pounds 1,000 looks like a bargain.

Then there is the expense of maintaining an office. I know I have one in my workplace, but come on, what FE lecturer doesn't have to work at home? That means a computer, printer, paper and ink cartridges, for a start. And without my broadband connection - Pounds 15 a month - how could I pick up and send emails on the days I'm not at the fun factory?

Add in the heating and lighting that all my home-working costs me, and you won't get much change out of Pounds 1,500 for the year. In fact, at that sum, I'm probably still subsidising the college.

Could I claim any of it back on my income tax? Not a hope. Try that one on with the Inland Revenue and you would be laughed out of court.

Now, what's all this about a communications allowance? Did you know that MPs get Pounds 10,000 a year for this? I have never claimed anything like that amount. I do make work-related calls from home though. I even send the odd letter out at weekends. So, let's say Pounds 150 for the calls and 47p for a stamp (large letter, second class).

Do I get secretarial help for all the administration my job requires me to do? Of course not! In further education today, you need to be at least a head of faculty before you get that. (Strange, isn't it, that as teachers we have to do both teaching and admin without assistance, while they - who don't see a student from one week to the next - get their own secretaries? But life is unfair, isn't it?) So, a modest claim for Pounds 3,000 for all the secretarial work I do myself doesn't seem out of place.

Finally, we come to that most difficult matter of all: the second home. Some will argue that FE lecturers don't actually need one to carry out their duties. But all the surveys show that being a teacher in further education is one of the most highly stressed jobs you can have. How else are we going to unwind if we can't nip off to our second abodes for a bit of rest and relaxation at half-term?

Mine might be in the south of France but - just as Clare Short insists that her house is in a very "unposh" part of Birmingham - I should point out that Languedoc isn't exactly the Cote d'Azur. I don't have a tennis court or a moat, either. The front door opens on to the street. Hence the locals' habit of walking by and peering in to cries of "Regardez le rosbif!"

Forget the cost of changing light bulbs and toilet seats. I'm only going to claim a modest Pounds 22,000 for relief on the mortgage interest payments.

So, adding it all up in my non-accountants way, I make that Pounds 27,650, plus the stamp. All right, I'll do without the stamp.

There is, of course, one little difference between my claims and those of our elected representatives in Parliament. I have not yet claimed a penny of it. And if I did, I suspect that rather than a cheque, I'd get a two- word answer from the college's finance department telling me where to go.

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