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Camden, Haringey and Barnet MPs' expenses fall for first time in five years

PUBLISHED: 17:27 30 November 2016 | UPDATED: 18:01 30 November 2016

MPs (clockwise from top left) Mike Freer, Tulip Siddiq, Keir Starmer and Catherine West

MPs (clockwise from top left) Mike Freer, Tulip Siddiq, Keir Starmer and Catherine West

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Expense claims for MPs representing Camden, Haringey and Barnet have fallen for the first time in five years - after three new faces took office at the last general election.

Former local MPs (clockwise from top left) Glenda Jackson, Frank Dobson, Lynne  Featherstone and Mike Freer, who held his seat at the last general electionFormer local MPs (clockwise from top left) Glenda Jackson, Frank Dobson, Lynne Featherstone and Mike Freer, who held his seat at the last general election

Spending by Mike Freer, Tulip Siddiq, Sir Keir Starmer and Catherine West has gone down by almost £100,000 compared to the previous year.

The four MPs claimed a total of £553,943 between them for costs incured in 2015-16, according to figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

This compared to £650,686 the previous year, claimed by former MPs Frank Dobson, Lynne Featherstone, Glenda Jackson and Mr Freer, who retained his seat.

The sharp 15 per cent drop was the first time the expenses bill for local MPs has fallen since 2011-12.

But IPSA cautioned that the 2015 election may have affected figures.

A spokeswoman said: “The general election in May 2015 saw an intake of 182 new MPs. As these MPs were elected in May, over one month into the financial year, most will have incurred lower costs in the financial year than those MPs who returned to Parliament.”

IPSA said payroll costs for new MPs were also sometimes lower, as they may not have employed staff immediately and taken time to set up their offices. Staffing costs account for the vast majority of expense spending by all MPs.

The Ham&High looked at claims for local MPs to find out more about what they have been spending.

Records show Finchley and Golders Green MP Mr Freer claimed £46 for Caravan Club membership for his surgery van.

MP Mike Freer claimed £46 for Caravan Club membership for the van he uses to host mobile surgeries in his Finchley and Golders Green constituency. Picture: Mike FreerMP Mike Freer claimed £46 for Caravan Club membership for the van he uses to host mobile surgeries in his Finchley and Golders Green constituency. Picture: Mike Freer

“My mobile advice survey is insured though the Caravan Club and the insurance is only available to members,” said the MP. “No other insurance was available and so I have to join to insure my vehicle.”

Mr Freer, who had the highest total expenses of the four local MPs, said he had “one of the busiest offices”.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Ms West claimed £1,058 to pay for security at her walk-in advice surgeries at Wood Green Library.

Her spokesman said: “It’s because Catherine operates a no-appointments surgery, so there is almost no vetting process. We don’t know what kind of issues or what type of person might show up at a surgery, so that justifies the basis for security.”

The three newly-elected MPs were entitled to a £6,000 “start-up” allowance for setting up their constituency offices but made differing use of it.

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir spent only £76, while Hampstead and Kilburn MP Ms Siddiq spent £867 and Ms West £4,070.

The Hornsey and Wood Green MP’s spokesman said: “We chose to use the start-up budget because we’re setting up a constituency office.”

The outgoing MPs - Mr Dobson, Baroness Featherstone and Ms Jackson - also claimed £155,000 in “winding-up” costs for closing down their constituency offices.

The vast majority was spent on payroll costs.

WHAT DID THE MPs CLAIM FOR?

MIKE FREER

Constituency: Finchley and Golders Green

Party: Conservative

Total expenses 2015-16: £161,192

London MPs expense ranking: 31 of 73 MPs

Some of the things claimed for: £579 for an iPad, £518 for buffets for constituents visiting Parliament, £100 for mobile phone screen repair and £26 for a subscription to The Times.

Mike Freer said: “I can’t comment on the total in comparison to others as I don’t know how they spend their budgets, but I have one of the busiest offices.”

TULIP SIDDIQ

Constituency: Hampstead and Kilburn

Party: Labour

Total expenses 2015-16: £135,369

London MPs expense ranking: 58 of 73 MPs

Some of the things claimed for: £321 for a chair, £443 for two desks, £140 for a filing cabinet and £83 for a shredder.

Tulip Siddiq said: “In my first year as an MP my office dealt with more than 1,600 pieces of casework for local residents - I respect taxpayers’ money and am careful in how it is spent.”

CATHERINE WEST

Constituency: Hornsey and Wood Green

Party: Labour

Total expenses 2015-16: £133,020

London MPs expense ranking: 60 of 73 MPs

Some of the things claimed for: £1,500 on consultants for Parliamentary research and speech preparation, £438 on leaflets advertising surgeries, £1,011 on computer equipment.

Catherine West’s spokesman said: “We try to operate a paperless office and when ordering go for the cheapest option to keep budgets within the limit of what’s possible.”

SIR KEIR STARMER

Constituency: Holborn and St Pancras

Party: Labour

Total expenses 2015-16: £124,362

London MPs expense ranking: 65 of 73 MPs

Some of the things claimed for: £1,200 on computer hardware and software, £480 advertising advise surgeries in the Camden New Journal, £3,852 on printer cartridges.

Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesman said: “This was another busy and active year in Parliament and across Holborn and St Pancras, and the figures published reflect that.”

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