Suffolk: MPs bill nears �1.5 million mark for salaries and expenses

THE region’s seven MPs cost taxpayers nearly �1.5 million in the last year according to new figures.

The expenditure released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) records the total expenditure by, and on behalf of, MPs.

The total amount, not including salaries, for Suffolk’s MPs slighty more than �1 million and their salaries and special payments just below �475,000.

That represents a significant increase in the previous year’s figures, although those were for an 11-month period – the 2010 general election was in May, a month into the financial year.

MPs salaries and allowances have not increased – but the total spent on expenses and staff costs increased from �815,000 to �1,010,000. Adjusting for the fact that the previous figure was for 11 - rather than 12 - months this still represents a 13.5% increase.

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The 2011/12 figure also represents an increase on the last figure for the previous parliament – in 2009/10 Suffolk MPs were paid a total of �970,000 in expenses and staff costs. This was a reduction on earlier years, and followed the expenses scandal which broke in early 2009.

The largest single cost is the amount spent on MPs’ staff salaries – most Members employ secretaries and caseworkers both in the House of Commons and in their constituencies.

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Following the expenses scandal of 2009, MPs no longer pay their staff themselves – their salaries are now paid by parliament.

However MPs do have to declare if any of their family members or political agents are paid on their behalf.

Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dr Dan Poulter employs his mother, Carol, as an office manager on a salary of between �30,000 and �35,000 a year.

And Waveney MP Peter Aldous paid between �5,000 and �10,000 to Suffolk County Council leader Mark Bee, who is also his parliamentary agent, for helping to run surgeries in his constituency.

The current expenses system, with the full publication by IPSA was introduced after the 2010 general election following the expenses scandal.

Before then there was publication of expenses claims by the House of Commons authorities – but they were not clearly set out in a common format to allow easy comparison.

Dr Poulter said he was one of about 150 MPs who employed a family member.

He said: “My mother works four days a week in my office in Westminster and then comes up to the constituency on Fridays. She is moving to Suffolk.

“She did a similar job for (Tory MPs) Crispin Blunt and Jacqui Lait in Surrey and actually took a �15,000 pay cut to work for me. There are no problems about her working for me.”

Dr Poulter, who became a junior health minister in last week’s reshuffle, added: “The publication of expenses is part of our way of life now. It is right that constituents should know where their money goes – we all accept this.”

Mr Aldous said Mr Bee had helped set up his constituency office and continued to do a small amount of work for him, mainly organising surgeries.

He said: “Mark has had much less time to work for me since last summer! I don’t claim expenses for my travel withing the constituency or within London – I think everyone is very careful about how they claim and it is very important that all expenses should be very transparent.”

And Ipswich MP Ben Gummer felt that expenses had ceased to be a major issue now.

He said: “They’re something we all have to deal with and I think everyone is very careful about how we claim. It’s really not something we think about any more.”

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