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Brent MPs £2.1m expense bill among highest in London: What do they spend and why?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 24 October 2015

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner (left) and former Brent Central MP Sarah Teather

Brent North MP Barry Gardiner (left) and former Brent Central MP Sarah Teather

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Our probe reveals £2.1million cost of local MPs but type of payments that caused 2009 expenses scandal are very much a thing of the past.

To see the full Brent MPs expenses graphic, click here

New figures have revealed Brent North MP Barry Gardiner had the fourth highest expenses bill in the capital over the last Parliament.

Our investigation, looking at thousands of MPs’ claims, has shown the long-standing Labour MP spent 16 per cent more than average for London’s 72 MPs from 2010 to 2015 carrying out his parliamentary work.

He said the steep costs of running his office were due to Brent North being one of the largest constituencies in the UK and the “enormous volume of casework” he has to deal with.

What can London MPs claim for?

MPs are reimbursed for business costs and expenses performing their parliamentary functions, both in Westminster and their constituencies - as people in other industries are.

London MPs cannot claim for accommodation but instead receive the London Area Living Payment of £3,760 annually, on top of their basic salary, to cover the extra expense of living in London.

MPs can claim for:

- London MPs £25,900 annually for office costs, other MPs £23,250.

- London MPs £145,500 annually for staffing and payroll, other MPs £138,600.

- Journeys between their constituency office and Westminster, but not from home to constituency office.

- Taxi fares up to £80 when the House of Commons sits late.

- Three return journeys a year to European parliaments.

MPs cannot claim for:

- Attending party political conferences or meetings, or work on behalf of a political party.

- Work relating to ministerial functions.

Almost £450,000 separated the capital’s highest and lowest claiming MPs over the last Parliament.

Former Labour leadership contender and Streatham MP, Chuka Umunna, topped the list at £789,795.

Conservative MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, John Randall, had the smallest expense bill at £340,423.

Other key findings include:

- All three Brent MPs cost the taxpayer just over £2.1million in payments for staff, office costs and travel over the past five years.

- Former Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, Sarah Teather, had the seventh highest expenses bill in the capital while former Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, Glenda Jackson, ranked 26th. Neither MP stood for re-election this May.

Our data, compiled using tens of thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), revealed Mr Gardiner’s total expenses from 2010 to 2015 were £722,065.

Enormous volume of casework’s

In common with all London MPs, he claimed by far the largest chunk of money for staffing and payroll costs.

“IPSA has for several years provided an uplift to my office so that I can employ more staff to cope with the enormous volume of casework that I receive in Brent North,” said Mr Gardiner.

“My constituency is one of the largest in the UK with over 82,000. The average in England is 72,000, the average in Scotland is 69,000 and the average in Wales is 57,000.

“The small uplift which IPSA allow to my budget does not adequately reflect this and it certainly does not reflect the thousands of other constituents in Brent North who do not yet have the right to vote in the UK.

“These facts do perhaps explain why the costs of running my office are higher than other London constituencies, like Bromley and Chislehurst, whose electorate is just 65,477.”

Office costs were the next highest area of spending for all MPs, where Mr Gardiner’s claims were broadly inline with the capital-wide average.

Travel expenses high

None of London’s MPs spent a significant amount on travel, in fact many claimed nothing at all.

As a result Mr Gardiner’s travel expenses, at £12,422, were high compared to the London average of £2,999.

“It is absolutely right that all the costs of our democracy are checked and approved by IPSA and then published to ensure that there is full transparency for the public,” he said.

Liberal Democrat MP Ms Teather, who won the Brent Central seat in 2003 and represented the constituency until she stepped down at the last general election, had total expenses claims of £717,017, a figure 15 per cent above average for London.

Her office costs for stationary, postage and office rental, were 50 per cent above average for the capital, but she spent less than the average London MP on travel.

Labour stalwart and two-time Oscar winner Ms Jackson, who was first elected in 1992 and retired from Parliament this year, claimed £669,355, which was eight per cent above average.

She claimed significantly less than the capital-wide average on office costs, 30 per cent below, and almost nothing on travel.

Neither of the former MPs were available to comment.

MPs expenses scandal

Our investigation found no evidence among local MPs of the sorts of claims that caused the expenses scandal in 2009.

In fact all three had a good record of transparency, with expenses logged and simple to understand.

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

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.”

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