MP expenses paid to keep Stephen Timms safe after brutal stabbing by constituent
- Credit: Archant
A probe into MPs expenses has revealed Newham’s two parliamentary representatives cost the taxpayer almost £1.3million in payments for staff, office costs and travel over the past five years.
Our investigation, looking at thousands of claims over the last Parliament, showed West Ham MP Lyn Brown was the highest spender of the two, billing £637,947 for costs carrying out her parliamentary work.
She was almost neck and neck with neighbouring MP for East Ham, Stephen Timms, who claimed £637,072. The difference was 0.1 per cent, or £875.
Other key findings include:
* Both MPs ranked mid-table for total claims when compared to London’s 72 MPs. Ms Brown was 34th and Mr Timms 35th.
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* East Ham MP Mr Timms’ travel costs were significantly higher than average because security concerns after he was stabbed by a constituent in 2010 meant he was unable to use public transport.
* Total spending by both MPs has risen faster than the London average since 2010.
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We found no evidence among local MPs of the sorts of claims that caused the expenses scandal in 2009. In fact both have a good record of transparency, with expenses fully logged and simple for the casual observer to understand.
MPs spending more than four years ago
Trends in our data, compiled using tens of thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), revealed London MPs are spending 18 per cent more on average than they were four years ago.
Combined figures for the Newham MPs show their total claims rose faster than the London average, at 21.5 per cent.
Both MPs said this was due to IPSA changes in 2012 that allowed MPs to increase annual staffing budgets, from £115,000 to £144,000, and employ four full-time staff rather than 3.5.
“IPSA concluded that a higher staffing budget would help MPs work more effectively,” said Mr Timms.
Advice surgeries in community centre
Significantly both MPs’ expenses fell year-on-year from 2013-14 to 2014-15. This defied the London-wide trend when average spend per MP rose by one per cent.
“One way I have reduced costs is to conduct more of my advice surgeries in a local community centre, charging a lower rent,” said Mr Timms.
Fellow Labour MP Ms Brown said: “Running costs are kept as low as possible whilst trying to maintain effective communications with constituents.”
The two Newham MPs spent almost identical amounts on staffing and payroll, by far the largest chunk of expenses claimed by all London MPs. Office costs were the second highest area of spending.
Travel expenses high due to stabbing
The Labour MP for East Ham spent significantly more on travel than average. Between 2010 and 2015 he claimed £7,536, which was 151 per cent higher than the capital-wide average of £2,999.
“In May 2010 I was stabbed by a constituent at an advice surgery in Beckton,” said Mr Timms. “I returned to my duties in the House of Commons in June 2010.
“During my convalescence, IPSA permitted me to have use of the Government Car Service to take me to and from the House of Commons.
“This arrangement was on the advice of the police and the Serjeant at Arm, who is responsible for the security of MPs in the Houses of Parliament, and was extended until after my assailant’s trial.
“Since the end of the trial, in November 2010, I have returned to using public transport to commute from my home in East Ham to Westminster.”
Records for West Ham MP, Ms Brown, showed she spent £14,650 from 2011 to 2014 on “engaging with constituents on a range of topics through electronic surveys”.
“Analysis of the research outcomes was used in communication with constituents through email and newspaper articles and to inform contributions to the House of Commons and lobbying of ministers,” she said.
Both MPs said accountability is important.
All MPs are entitled to claim expenses to aid their parliamentary work in addition to a basic salary, which was set at £67,000 but recently rose to £74,000 per year.
Action was taken to clean up politics after 2009, with IPSA set up to monitor expense spending.