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Redbridge MPs’ £2million expense bill: What do they spend it on and why?

PUBLISHED: 09:00 26 October 2015

MPs Iain Duncan Smith (top left), John Cryer (top right), Lee Scott (bottom left) and Mike Gapes (bottom right)

MPs Iain Duncan Smith (top left), John Cryer (top right), Lee Scott (bottom left) and Mike Gapes (bottom right)

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An investigation into expenses reveals our Labour MPs claim the most locally, but they say it is due to government funding cuts

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A probe into expenses has revealed the four MPs representing Redbridge cost the taxpayer almost £2.4million in payments for staff, office costs and travel over the past five years.

Our investigation, looking at thousands of claims over the last Parliament, has shown Labour MPs John Cryer and Mike Gapes spent far more than neighbouring Conservative MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Lee Scott carrying out their parliamentary work from 2010 to 2015.

Yet both Labour MPs said bulging caseloads caused by government cuts to local advisory services were the cause of burgeoning costs. The Conservative MPs said efficiency and keeping spending low was a priority.

Expenses pledges

Iain Duncan Smith, Conservative MP for Chingford and Woodford Green

“These are not expenses, but costs. I have not claimed personal expenses and I won’t.”

John Cryer, Labour MP for Leyton and Wanstead

“To provide constituents with the best service that I and my staff can, and to report expenses as transparently as possible.”

Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford South

“All claims are for legitimate expenditure approved by very rigorous IPSA rules. I am in favour of transparency and think the current system is now working reasonably well.”

Other key findings include:

* Combined spending by all four MPs has risen 20 per cent since 2011-12, outstripping the London average rate of 18 per cent.

* Labour MPs Mr Cryer and Mr Gapes ranked mid-table for total claims when compared to London’s 72 MPs, in 22nd and 32nd place.

* Conservative MPs Mr Duncan Smith and Mr Scott, who lost his seat to Labour’s Wes Streeting at this year’s general election, were much lower down the table in 60th and 64th place.

Data compiled using thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) revealed Leyton and Wanstead MP Mr Cryer had the highest total expenses bill of the four at £673,585, eight per cent above average for London MPs.

‘Many are in desperate situations’

Mr Cryer said he receives 3,000 emails, letters and phone calls a week from residents, “many in desperate situations”, and his caseload has increased by 20 pc each year.

He said: “Labour MPs, particularly in London, tend to represent areas with pockets of higher social deprivation, people who are more likely to need an MP’s help.

“With the reduction in various advisory services, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, people are coming to MPs more and more.”

Huge increase in demands’

Fellow Labour MP for Ilford South, Mr Gapes, claimed £645,666, 3.7pc above the London average.

Mr Gapes said he has the largest of the four constituencies. He said: “There has been a huge increase in demands on my working staff due to cuts to government funding of services over recent years.

“There is a major housing crisis locally and housing related casework has doubled in the last two years.”

Email

MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, Mr Duncan Smith, claimed 12pc below the London average at £548,579.

Mr Duncan Smith’s parliamentary office manager Rikki Williams, said costs were kept low by dealing with as much correspondence as possible by email and employing fewer staff than other MPs.

Mr Duncan Smith employs two part-time and one full-time staff member rather than the four full-time employees allowed by IPSA since 2012.

“Our staff know the constituency back to front and we are able to deal with things quickly and efficiently,” said Mr Williams.

Former Ilford North MP Mr Scott was among the capital’s lowest spenders with a bill of £521,000.

He said: “I always felt it was best to spend as little as possible and be as cost-efficient as possible.”

Key areas of spending

All except Mr Cryer spent less than the London average on staffing and payroll, by far the largest chunk of expenses claimed by all London MPs. Office costs were the second biggest area of spending.

In this category the two Labour MPs claimed more than their Tory colleagues, spending roughly a third above the London average for constituency office rental and stationary and postage costs.

Ilford South MP Mr Gapes and work and pensions secretary Mr Duncan Smith had high travel costs at 50 and 30 per cent above the London average respectively.

Mr Gapes said his role on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee involved travel to international meetings.

Mr Duncan Smith’s office said a member of staff drives him to constituency visits, adding: “Iain spends a lot of time in the constituency, so naturally this cost is going to be high”.

Good record of transparency

All MPs are entitled to claim expenses to aid parliamentary work in addition to a basic salary, which recently rose to £74,000 per year.

Our investigation found no evidence among local MPs of the sorts of claims that caused the expenses scandal in 2009. All four have a good record of transparency, with expenses logged and simple to understand.


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