Norfolk MP Keith Simpson claims �20,000 expenses
Broadland MP Keith Simpson submitted the biggest expenses claim - for over �20,000 - in the first months of the new regime introduced after the rows about payments that rocked the last parliament.
He was at the top end of a spectrum that stretched from his �20,752 submission to nothing. As many as 74 of the 650 MPs, including NW Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, made no claim. And Norwich North MP Chloe Smith claimed only �174.40 for the three-and-a-half months period from the general election to the end of August.
Mr Simpson said that his claim was pumped up by the inclusion of some once-a-year submissions for staffing costs, and that over 12 months he expected to be roughly in the middle for MPs' expenses as he had been in the past. 'I am not charging any more or less than I did under the old system', he said.
His expenses bill includes �7,050 for 'professional services (staff)', �2408.75 for 'pooled staffing services' and �3176 for 'website design/production'. He employs only one full-time member of staff, a secretary, and chooses instead to 'buy in' staff services to help him with his work.
The claims made by the local MPs were: Mr Simpson �20,752; Brandon Lewis (Gt Yarmouth) �12,314.76; Steve Barclay (NE Cambs) �10,669.84; George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) �9277.85; Elizabeth Truss (SW Norfolk) �9195.32; Richard Bacon (South Norfolk) �7862.25; Matt Hancock (West Suffolk) �7784.03; Peter Aldous (Waveney) �6627.44; Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) �3883.16; Simon Wright (Norwich South) �3382.29; Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and Ipswich North) �3106.58; Chloe Smith (Norwich North) �174.40; Henry Bellingham (NW Norfolk) no claim; David Ruffley (Bury St Edmunds) no claim; Ben Gummer (Suffolk Coastal) no claim.
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The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which was set up to run a tighter system for MPs' expenses, has run into much adverse criticism for deciding not to publish individual receipts along with the expenses claims. It has also been challenged for not publishing rejected claims, which so far amount to more than 1500.
But many MPs across the political spectrum are united in a loathing of the new system. They find it heavily bureaucratic and time-consuming, and some complain that it leaves them out of pocket or waiting unduly for the reimbursement of substantial sums.
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Mr Lamb last night voiced his frustrations with the arrangements. He could have continued to claim mortgage interest payments on his London flat for a two-year transition period, he said. But rather than pay the necessary valuation and revaluation charges, he had moved into a hotel - and would cut his charges for that accomodation to reflect profit made on renting out the flat.
At the end of a working day that had started at 8.30am one day this week, he continued, he spent about 45 minutes around mid-night checking payments authorised by his office manager. 'The whole thing is a complete nightmare', he said.
The total expenses bill for the period of �3.1m compares very favourably with the �96m claimed by MPs in 2008-09 under the old discredited rules, and suggests that many MPs are cutting back. But the period includes part of the summer recess when most MPs were away from London.
Having angered many MPs already, Ipsa yesterday irritated journalists by publishing details of the MPs' claims on a website that was not user-friendly, and eventually crashed. It was as if had been designed by MPs trying to keep things concealed.