The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Truss’s brief time as prime minister comes with a lifetime financial perk

Liz Truss, followed by her husband, Hugh O'Leary, walks back into 10 Downing Street after announcing her resignation as Prime Minister on Thursday. (Stefan Rousseau/PA/AP)

Liz Truss lasted a brief six weeks as prime minister. But even with that short period in office, she may have won a lifetime of financial perks offered to former British leaders.

In rules instituted in 1991, after Truss idol Margaret Thatcher’s resignation, former prime ministers are able to claim up to almost $130,000 a year in expenses under what is known as a “Public Duty Cost Allowance.”

It isn’t quite free money. The expenses are audited so that they cannot be used for private or parliamentary purposes (some former prime ministers stay in parliament after being kicked out of the top job, including both immediate Truss predecessors Theresa May and Boris Johnson).

“The costs are a reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office costs and secretarial costs arising from their special position in public life,” a government website explaining the Public Duty Cost Allowance reads.

Last year, in response to a written question in Parliament, Minister for Cabinet Office Julia Lopez said in a statement that the expenses were “reimbursement of incurred expenses for necessary office and secretarial costs. These costs can include diary support, Met Police protection on public visits, correspondence, staffing at public visits, support to charitable work, social media platforms and managing and maintaining ex-PMs office (staff, payroll, admin).”

It is a lifetime allowance, and then some. In the event that the former prime minister dies, the salaries of any staff covered by the allowance will be continued for three additional months.

Separately, Truss may be entitled to a personal pension through the Parliamentary Contributory Pension Fund. The amount varies, but the cost has been based on half their annual salary at the time they leave office.

By American standards, the numbers are low. Former president Donald Trump has a lifetime pension of $230,000 a year and is eligible for all kinds of expenses, including Secret Service protection, as are all former U.S. leaders.

Indeed, before Thatcher stepped down from the premiership in 1990, there were few post-office perks for prime ministers at all. Thatcher’s successor, John Major, was reported to feel sorry for Thatcher, who had spent 11 years as prime minister and a further 20 years as a member of Parliament.

Truss will have different concerns, though she may be in some luck: The rate of Public Duty Cost Allowance has been frozen since 2011, but it is up for review next year. With inflation over 10 percent, it may be time for a bump.

The U.K.'s new prime minister

The latest: In his first speech as British prime minister, Rishi Sunak warned his country that tough economic times — and tough decisions — were ahead. The day also marked the end of Liz Truss’s tenure as Britain’s shortest-serving prime minister, after just 49 days in office.

Who is Rishi Sunak?: He competed against Truss to lead Britain’s Conservative Party after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his scandal-induced resignation in July. Loyalists point out that his candidacy received the most support from his parliamentary colleagues. And many of his economic ideas have turned out to be prescient, those backers say.

Why did Liz Truss resign?: Truss came to office with a vision for a low-tax, small government state. Her financial plan tanked the British economy and politicians from the ruling Conservative Party called on her to quit. According to new polling, only 10 percent of the country viewed Truss favorably.

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