Fury at MP's £1,600 window cleaning bill

CAMPAIGNERS spoke of their anger last night after it emerged the East of England Minister, wife of millionaire novelist Ken Follett, claimed more than £1,600 in expenses for window cleaners at her London home.

John Howard

CAMPAIGNERS spoke of their anger last night after it emerged the East of England Minister, wife of millionaire novelist Ken Follett, claimed more than £1,600 in expenses for window cleaners at her London home.

Fourteen prominent MPs, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, were forced to reveal their claims after conceding defeat in their three-year fight to keep the paperwork private.

The victory came at a cost of £100,000 to the public purse and was hailed as a landmark ruling by freedom of information campaigners.

The totals claimed by each MP were already known, but the documents just released included pages of detail, some of it exposing spending out of the reach of most taxpayers.

Among the detail was the fact that Barbara Follett, the East of England Minister, claimed more than £1,600 for window cleaning at her London home.

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Cleaners visited on 18 occasions at £94-a-time during 2003 to 2004 and campaigners lobbying for better government and lower taxes are furious.

Mrs Follett was unavailable for comment yesterday, but Reg Hartles, chairman of the Protest Against Council Tax Suffolk, said last night: “I think to receive £1,600 for window cleaning is diabolical.

“That sort of thing really makes my blood boil. Ordinary people are struggling and they should be setting an example.

“Anything like this is out of our pockets in tax and it is just not on. I cannot understand the way they think at times.”

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of The Taxpayers' Alliance, said: “It is reasonable for taxpayers to give MPs a roof over their head in London, but to also pay cleaning staff seems beyond the pale.

“Families have seen their food and fuel bills rise, and tax bills are up. People are starting to feel the pinch. The entire system of MPs expenses need to be completely reformed.”

Members had been concerned that releasing expenses claims would also place private addresses in the public domain, presenting a security threat. The final documents excluded some details such as the address of Mr Brown's constituency home and David Cameron's mortgage account number.

But there was plenty of meat left on the bones in box after box of papers.

Mr Brown's claims include a Sky TV subscription and television licence and Margaret Beckett had a £600 claim disallowed in 2006 for plants for her garden.

And former deputy Prime Minister John Prescott claimed £6,707.06 for work on his constituency home in Hull, including fixing mock Tudor boards to the front.

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