My expenses are good value, says Russell

A LOW claim for a high attender - “that's my proud boast,” said Colchester MP Bob Russell - who shares a London flat with another Liberal Democrat MP.

Graham Dines

A LOW claim for a high attender - “that's my proud boast,” said Colchester MP Bob Russell - who shares a London flat with another Liberal Democrat MP.

Although the property in Southwark has been refurbished at public expense, Mr Russell said: “Which ever way you cut the cake, I can confidently say that I have never manipulated the expenses regime for my personal benefit.”

Among the items he has claimed are a new front door, repairs to the roof, a replacement window, building works of �12,754.30, refitting the kitchen and other repairs totalling �950.

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In what can be classified as home comforts, the MP has been reimbursed for a coffee table and lamp table costing �434, a table for �29.99, and a toilet brush, picture hooks, and refuse sacks costing �13.96.

Mr Russell claims the council tax, water rates, and television licence for the flat, while Mike Hancock (MP for Portsmouth South) claims for the gas and electricity bills. Maintenance costs are split 50-50 for the reimbursement.

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“Our accommodation costs are among the lowest of any MP because we have agreed to share a flat, which means the public purse is not being charged twice,” said Mr Russell.

Although he charges up to �400 for food every month, he said he reduces it when he is away on tours with the armed forces in Germany and Afghanistan, and does not put in claims when the House of Commons is in recess.

The MP hit out at colleagues who flip properties - the practice of alternating their main homes between constituency and London buildings - so as to avoid capital gains tax when they sell up.

“My wife and I have lived in the same house for nearly 40 years. It would be cheating the taxpayer suddenly to declare that the flat in Southwark was my main home,” said Mr Russell. “I am glad that this loophole for MPs is being closed up under the reforms of our expenses and allowances.”

He favours purpose-built accommodation in London to house MPs during the week and a rule change so that MPs can only claim a place in the capital as their second home.

“An MP's main home should be in his or her constituency. Too many MPs are not local to their constituents.

Sadly, the disclosures have resulted in all MPs being tarnished. That is not fair.”

EXPENSES CLAIMS 2004-5 to 2007-8

Additional costs allowance (second home costs): �44,099

Incidental expenses provision: �80,789

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