MP claims five times as much expenses as colleagues

Big spender: MP Angela Smith.
Big spender: MP Angela Smith.
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NEW expenses claims by MPs representing South Yorkshire have seen some politicans ask for more than five times as much money as others, writes Richard Marsden.

Fresh arrangements for MPs to be reimbursed for work spending were brought in after concerns about abuse of the previous system.

But new figures for April to October last year - the first six months of the reformed system - show wildly varying differences in the sizes of MPs’ claims.

The biggest difference locally was between Angela Smith, who represents Penistone and Stocksbridge, and Rotherham MP Denis MacShane.

Ms Smith claimed £22,272.08 for the six month period - while Mr MacShane’s claim was more than five times smaller, totalling £4,163.36.

Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield claimed £19,310.96 - while Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron asked for £3,402.01 but submitted claims only up to July.

Mr Blomfield told The Star his expenses claim, despite nearing £20,000, would not even match the full cost of renting a property for use while he is in London.

“I claim the full rent allowance in London but have only modest accommodation - a one-bedroom former council flat in a tower block,” he said. “The amount I can claim won’t even cover the rental cost.

“The amount also includes setting up my constituency office, which I have located outside the expensive area of the city centre for cost reasons.”

He added: “The real time to make an accurate comparison will be after 12 months of the new system, when people have submitted all their expenses.”

Angela Smith has also faced higher costs, as her constituency has been changed from Hillsborough to Penistone and Stocksbridge, while Mr Barron and Mr MacShane own the properties where they have their constituency offices, so face lower costs.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg submitted claims totalling £14,451.33 for the period from May to September.

They included mortgage interest costs of £842.47 a month and regular council tax bills of £180.

The rent on his constituency office in Sheffield Hallam cost the taxpayer £725 a month, and he spent £2,369 on “parliamentary support”.

His spokesman said: “These expenses claims are for a six month period. Nick claimed nothing in the period between May and August, so his claims are a little higher in these two months.

“Nick has claimed less than four of the five Labour MPs in Sheffield over the six month period.”

Ed Miliband, Doncaster North MP, was third cheapest, claiming £7,601.87. The figure included £134.89 for new letterheads following his election as Labour leader.

Disgraced Barnsley Central MP Eric Illsley, who has now stood down after admitting expenses fraud, claimed £9,197.74.

The only MP’s claim that was not approved was 88 pence of an £88.88 rent payment claimed by Michael Dugher, the new Labour MP for Barnsley East. The reason for refusal was not revealed.

Ms Smith was unavailable for comment.

The new parliamentary expenses regime is “impeding” MPs in doing their jobs and must be reformed within the next two months, the Leader of the House of Commons has said.

In a highly critical statement, Sir George Young said the system set up by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was “failing in many respects” to support MPs.

Certain “highly unsatisfactory” aspects of the reformed expenses are “at best distracting, and at worst impeding” the work of MPs, he claimed.

And the new system is deterring people from less affluent backgrounds from becoming MPs and putting “undue pressure” on the family lives of existing parliamentarians, he said.

EXPENSES by South Yorkshire MPs - April to October 2010

Angela Smith, Lab, Penistone and Stocksbridge £22,272.08

Paul Blomfield, Lab, Sheffield Central £19,310.96

David Blunkett, Lab, Sheffield Brightside and Hillsboro £18,624.71

Meg Munn, Lab, Sheffield Heeley £15,438.70

Nick Clegg, Lib Dem, Sheffield Hallam £14,451.33

Michael Dugher, Lab, Barnsley East £14,355.51

John Heeley, Lab, Wentworth and Dearne £13,345.34

Clive Betts, Lab, Sheffield South East £10,574

Eric Illsley, Ind, Barnsley Central £9,197.74

Caroline Flint, Lab, Don Valley £8,067.55

Ed Miliband, Lab, Doncaster North £7,601.87

Rosie Winterton, Lab, Doncaster Central £7,366.64

Denis MacShane, Lab, Rotherham £4,163.36

Kevin Barron, Lab, Rother Valley £3,402.01