HUGE disparities in the amount of expenses and office costs claimed by Leeds-area MPs last year have been revealed by the Parliamentary watchdog.
Figures released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) – the body created to oversee MPs’ remuneration following the expenses scandal of 2009 – show some local MPs claimed more than double the amount of their near-neighbours last year.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland was the highest claimant in Yorkshire during 2012/13, claiming more than £58,000 for office, travel and second home expenses.
Leeds East MP George Mudie was the lowest, taking £26,926.90 over the financial year.
Mr Mulholland – well-known for a series of high-profile campaigns in support of local pubs – said the figure reflected the cost of running a busy office in Leeds.
He also said many of the claims should not be characterised as “expenses”, as most of the payments were “made direct to staff, to landlords, to East Coast rail and to suppliers”.
Mr Mulholland’s claims included £22,000 on office costs and £8,220 on travel. Those figures included £2,005 on meals for himself, staff and interns, and £119.50 on taxis home.
“The figures are in line with other MPs and reflect a busy constituency office and a team who work very hard serving people in Leeds,” the Lib Dem MP said.
“Unless subsidised by rich individuals or trade unions, MPs who want to provide an excellent service clearly need to have a strong team in place, who are all salaried and paid directly by the House of Commons.
“Some MPs also can save on office costs if their party association has one, but in our case we have to rent one.”
Shipley MP Philip Davies said his expenses claims – the second-highest in the area – reflected his effort to give constituents the best service possible.
The Tory MP explained more than £14,000 paid to a firm called Big Ben Partnership was for a staff member to work for him part-time.
Costs for MPs’ staff are not usually paid for through the expenses system, and the claim represented a large part of the £50,312.26 reimbursed to Mr Davies over the year.
“People need to get their heads around the fact that none of this money goes into our pockets, it reimburses us for costs that have been incurred,” he said.
“The biggest is travelling back to the constituency every week, and the cost of employing staff.”