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By Ray Fleming ON Wednesday Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne will probably tell the nation to tighten its belt by a notch because the economic green shoots will be a little late this year and at the end of the week there will be big protests by those hit hardest by the government's nips and tucks.

Odd, therefore, that on Thursday the Parliamentary Standards Authority is expected to announce some easing of MPs expenses regulations which will lead to increases for some of thousands of pounds a year and even more in a few cases. MPs have been feeling hard done by following the crackdown after the expenses scandal of two years ago and the Prime Minister said recently that some of the new regulations were perhaps being imposed in too rigorous a way. So MPs with older children will be able to claim travel and accommodation allowances for them, London second home allowances will be extended, and wages and office bills will be chargeable to parliamentary credit cards. Doubtless there are good cases to be made for these changes -- they are not in the category of creative accounting that was so shocking before -- but surely some thought should be given to the timing of the announcement. Budget week in tough times is not when people are at their most understanding of others' needs.