In the past 24 hours my expenses have been weaponised as another tool to attack me with.
There will be many people who do not know how the expenses system work, but there are some who do, and they are deliberately misrepresenting my expenses to fit their political narrative.
The headline figure is grabbing people’s attention, but it is very important to stress that 74% of my office costs are paying the wages of my hard-working staff. I represent around 84,000 people and I could not do this job by myself. Every MP needs a fantastic team of people behind them to support them in their work. Over the period of 2020/21, my team and I dealt with more than 6,600 individual cases.
MPs are given a budget to help run their office. This is used to provide my staff with the equipment and resources they need to support me in my role. Without this budget I would not be able to represent my constituents as I wouldn’t have the equipment or resources needed to do my job effectively.
All MPs operate in slightly different ways. I chose to set up an office in Redditch town centre and employ people to work on the issues that matter most to my constituents. Some MPs don’t even have an office in their constituency.
During the pandemic, IPSA also increased MPs’ budgets due to the massive rise in correspondence MPs received from their constituents. Like many MPs, I had to take on an additional member of staff to help cope with the increased workload.
When I’m not at home in Redditch, I need somewhere to stay in London in order to represent my constituents in the House of Commons. I need to be in Westminster in order to vote and deliver on the promises my constituents re-elected me to deliver. IPSA enables MPs to cover the costs of accommodation.
And as I live in Redditch, this also means I have to travel by train between the constituency and London for work and this is therefore reflected in my travel costs. I travel standard class. Not all MPs live in their constituency, but it has always been important to me that I do live in my constituency, and I have done for four years now.
I also want to bust the myth that MPs get free meals in Parliament, they don’t. MPs cannot claim for any food or drink. I only claim for the rent I need to stay in London in order to do my job, and never anything else associated with the costs of living in London for part of the week. All other costs such as utility bills and broadband, which I need for work, and items like furniture and TV licenses are all paid for out of my own pocket.
The majority of my staff live in Redditch, but they can be required to work in London, sometimes resulting in an overnight stay. This is commonplace for the staff of MPs. IPSA enable MPs’ staff to claim for travel costs and overnight stays. My hard-working and dedicated team ought to be able to claim for travel expenses which is no different to that of any other employee in a business.
My total business costs are listed transparently online, and I am always conscious that this is taxpayer’s money. MPs expenses are strictly regulated by IPSA, all claims are scrutinised and have to be within rules which are available to view at: https://www.theipsa.org.uk/
I hope this explanation helps and puts an end to the unwarranted, misleading and unfair attacks against me – attacks which are leading to more abuse.