The price of democracy revealed: £2.5million cost of local MPs to taxpayer

New figures have revealed the four MPs who represented Camden, Barnet and Haringey over the last Parliament cost the taxpayer £2.5million in payments for staff, office costs and travel.

https://infogr.am/hamandhigh_mps_expenses

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Our investigation, looking at thousands of MPs’ claims from 2010 to 2015, showed former Labour MP Glenda Jackson had the highest expense bill locally, claiming £669,355 for costs carrying out her parliamentary work.

Fellow Labour veteran Frank Dobson, former MP for Holborn and St Pancras, had the lowest claims at £572,610. Neither MP stood for re-election in May.

Other key findings include:

- Combined spending by all four MPs rose faster than the capital-wide average.


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- Ms Jackson, and former Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Lynne Featherstone, ranked mid-table for total expense claims, 26 and 27 out of London’s 72 MPs.

- MP for Finchley and Golders Green, Mike Freer, was further down the table in 41st place and Mr Dobson was among the capital’s more frugal claimers in 53rd place.

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Our data, compiled using tens of thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), showed all London MPs claimed by far the largest chunk of expenses for staff and payroll.

In this area Mr Freer bucked the trend, spending five per cent below the London average, while the other three MPs were all slightly above.

He said: “My office is one of the busiest constituency offices in London and I use my parliamentary allowances carefully but also fully to ensure I offer as efficient a service as possible.”

Setting-up costs

Mr Freer’s office costs were comparatively high at 30 per cent above average for London. This was partly because he set up from scratch as a newly elected MP in 2010.

“My costs also include setting-up costs,” he said. “MPs elected before 2010 did not have to incur these costs. I understand the 2010 intake had to use our allowance to equip our offices.”

On the back of criticism over the issue, new MPs are now eligible for a “start-up” allowance of up to £6,000 from IPSA.

Former Liberal Democrat MP Ms Featherstone, who lost her seat to Labour’s Catherine West in May, had office costs 23 per cent above the London average, while Ms Jackson and Mr Dobson were both significantly below.

Ms Featherstone said: “I was named one of the ‘expenses saints’ after the scandal in 2009.

“I only ever claimed expenses to fund what was an incredibly busy and efficient local office, so I could effectively perform my role as a local representative.”

Travel

None of London’s MPs spent a significant amount on travel, in fact many claimed nothing at all - suggesting most cover the cost themselves despite being able to expense work-related journeys.

The four local MPs fell well below the London averge of £2,999 from 2010 to 2015. Mr Freer claimed £1,383, Ms Jackson £876, Mr Dobson £94 and Ms Featherstone £76.

Mr Freer said: “I rarely claim for travel, I regard most travel as travel to work, which I meet out of my own pocket.”

Spending on the rise

Combined spending by all four MPs rose by 23 per cent from 2011 to 2014, slightly more than the London average of 18 per cent, and partly explained by a change in IPSA staffing allowances in 2012 that allowed MPs to hire four rather than 3.5 staff to assist with constituency and parliamentary work.

All MPs are entitled to claim expenses to aid their work in addition to a basic salary, which was set at £67,000 but recently rose to £74,000 per year.

Expenses scandal

However the expenses scheme was brought into disrepute in 2009 following revelations that a minority had been claiming for items such as decorative ornaments, entertainment equipment and - perhaps most notably - a duck house.

Action was taken to clean-up politics and IPSA was set up to monitor expense spending.

IPSA chief executive Marcial Boo said: “As the regulator of the public funds that go to MPs, IPSA ensures that taxpayers’ money is used transparently, and that MPs are appropriately resourced to carry out their parliamentary functions.”

Expense claims for our incoming MPs - Tulip Siddiq, for Hampstead and Kilburn, Keir Starmer for Holborn and St Pancras, and Catherine West for Hornsey and Wood Green - will be published publicly for the first time on November 12.

* What do you think about MPs’ expenses? Email letters@hamhigh.co.uk or tweet @hamandhigh

* Do you have a story for our investigations unit? Contact Emma Youle on emma.youle@archant.co.uk or call 020 7433 0122.

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