WHAT do television units, bunk beds and marigold gloves have in common? They all feature in the latest expense claims of our local MPs.
Yesterday saw the House of Commons publish MPs’ second home expense claims for the whole of 2008/09 and the first quarter of 2009/10.
Allowences by MP
Also published are a breakdown of which property MPs choose to claim on and whether this has changed in the past year. This reveals that Annette Brooke, Chris Chope, Jim Knight, Desmond Swayne and Robert Syms all class their constituency home as their main home, while Sir John Butterfill, Tobias Ellwood and Bob Walter all designate their London property as their main home and claim on their constituency address.
Sir John Butterfill, MP for Bournemouth West, claimed just over £1,000 in the first quarter of 2009/10 but claimed £18,926.49 in 2008/2009.
Claims included thousands of pounds of work on his kitchen and bathroom, (£3,000 of which he has since voluntarily repaid), £500 for a television, £724.50 for decorating a bedroom and £396.75 for supplying and fitting a blind.
He said the bedroom was left damaged by the building work in the bathroom and the television was the first he had claimed for in 26 years.
Tobias Ellwood, MP for Bournemouth East, claimed nothing for the first quarter of the 2009/2010 financial year.
But he claimed £23,573.72 in 2008/2009, all in mortgage interest payments for his Bournemouth home. The sum claimed is just £433 below the maximum amount allowed.
He told the Daily Echo he believes MPs are now going to be a lot more careful about the claims they submit and added: “I’m glad we’re starting to see the transparency that has been long overdue.”
Christchurch MP Christopher Chope claimed £6,693.90 in the first quarter of 2009/10 and a total of £19,933.63 in 2008/2009. The claims included £4,000 for food and £2,491.18 for carpet.
Dorset South MP and employment minister Jim Knight claimed £2,092.50 in the first quarter of 2009/10 and a total of £22,154.74 in 2008/2009.
The claims were mainly for mortgage payments but also included £3,635 for food.
He told the Daily Echo: “Colleagues are being much more careful about how they use public money and how they justify it. Tightening of the rules and transparency is helpful.”
Mid Dorset and North Poole MP Annette Brooke claimed £3,136.51 in the first quarter of 2009/10 and a total of £16,604.98 in 2008/09.
Her 08/09 expenses were mainly for the rent on her London flat, plus some eating out and laundry costs.
She said: “MPs who have bought properties have seen their mortgages decrease whereas my rent has increased a bit. But I feel more comfortable renting, it’s the right thing to do.”
Desmond Swayne, MP for New Forest West, claimed £2,535.72 in the first quarter of 2009/10 and a total of £12,892.01 in 2008/09.
During 2008/09, he regularly claimed for cleaning costs and eating out but said he stopped this as soon as there was an indication it was not appropriate. He also claimed £16.33 for cleaning materials, including a 99p scourer, £1.28 marigold gloves and a £3.65 dustpan and brush set. He said he moved to a smaller flat in August 2008 and no longer hired a cleaner. “I’ve responded to the crisis by drastically changing my habits.”
Robert Syms, Poole MP, claimed £3,588.93 in the first quarter of 2009/10 and a total of £23,999.98 in 2008/09 – just a few pounds shy of the £24,006 limit.
During 08/09, he had a claim for a £359 bunk bed and mattress refused. The letter from the Fees Office said: “Living costs for anyone other than yourself are not permitted under the Additional Costs Allowance.” But he did claim for a £339 LCD TV and a £39.99 microwave.
Bob Walter, MP for North Dorset, did not claim anything in the first quarter of 2009/10 and £20,416.16 in 2008/09.
His expenses in 08/09 included regular claims for gardening and cleaning, which are no longer allowed. He attempted to claim £37.20 under the heading repairs/insurance/security but this was disallowed because he did not provide an invoice. He did, however, claim for a £650 television unit and a £169 hi-fi cabinet.
Mr Walter said he claimed for gardening and furniture because they were allowed under the old rules, adding: “I’ve always stated that we need a system which is outside the control of those who benefit from it.”