Plymouth MPs claim £589,000 in costs and expenses in a year
THE four MPs who cover the Plymouth area claimed a total of £589,000 in costs and expenses in the last financial year.
Top of the list was Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, who claimed £49,370 on spending and £136,399 for staff, making a total of £185,769. He was the only one of the four to hire a family member – his wife Janet, who was paid £10,000 as a parliamentary assistant.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) said the total amount claimed by all 650 MPs in 2012/13 was down more than £10 million on the amount asked for before the 2009 expenses scandal. Expenses claimed can include rent on a second home, office costs, fuel and travel. The figures for the four Plymouth-area MPs are:
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Con, South West Devon
National rank: 30
Con, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport
National rank: 307
Con, South East Cornwall
National rank: 345
Lab, Plymouth Moor View
National rank: 404
Mr Streeter said: "Case work is enormous and increasing. We have to have a staff to deal with it. People expect a professional job from their MPs."
On employing his wife, he said he would never see her otherwise. "She might help me write a column for the local newspaper on a Sunday and helps with surgeries. If she wasn't working part-time for me she would be working part-time for someone else."
Alison Seabeck said her staffing costs had gone up because she has had to hire an extra member of staff to deal with a rising caseload. She said Government policies on housing and benefits had almost doubled the number of people coming to her for help.
She employs three full-time and two part-time staff in Plymouth and Westminster.
Ms Seabeck defended MPs who employ family members – so long as the family member does the work they are paid for. She pointed out that Linda Gilroy, former Labour MP for Devonport, had employed her husband, "who worked tirelessly and for long hours".
Ms Seabeck no longer claims for a London home since she married Greenwich MP Nick Raynsford. Sheryll Murray said: "Whatever I claim I can 100 per cent justify. I don't think I've had one claim refused."
She did not claim for electricity or television in her London flat. "I don't feel it's right for the taxpayer to pay."
Mrs Murray also subsidised the rent on her London flat because she chose to live closer to Parliament.
"I do claim for mileage because I have a very large constituency. Most of my salary would be spent on fuel if I didn't claim."
Oliver Colvile said he did not claim for any rent as MPs are entitled to because he owns his homes in London and Plymouth.
"I recognise that this is about the taxpayer's money and I am careful about what I claim."
He said he employed two case workers "because we are incredibly busy".
Non-staff spending by all four of the MPs was dwarfed by the £100,204 claimed by Ian Paisley (DUP, North Antrim).