What it costs to keep your MP at work

IAN COLLINS Taxpayers picked up a bill of almost £130m for MPs last year - with the cost for each politician nearly £190,000.

IAN COLLINS

Taxpayers picked up a bill of almost £130m for MPs last year - with the cost for each politician nearly £190,000.

Official figures reveal that MPs claimed expenses and allowances of nearly £85m in 2005/6.

Their salaries were more than £38m, and resettlement and office winding-up grants of around £5.4m were paid to members who lost their seats or retired at last year's general election.

A pro rata increase in expenses and allowances of 2.2pc on 2004/5 is in fact higher as more than 130 MPs claimed for just 11 months, entering parliament after the May 2005 election

MPs' recoupable costs come on top of basic salary - currently £59,686, but rising to £60,277 in November - and pension.

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Up to £87,276 can be claimed for salaries for researchers, secretaries and other staff, and a maximum of almost £22,000 can go to MPs with constituencies outside central London to pay for the costs of staying in the capital to attend parliament.

Other allowances are paid for travel on parliamentary business, office costs, stationery, postage and computer equipment.

Tony Blair claimed expenses worth £87,342 in his role as a constituency MP last year, compared with Gordon Brown's £134,586. Tory leader David Cameron clocked up £135,729 and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell £123,617.

Among our local MPs, the tally ranged from North Norfolk's Norman Lamb on £142,565 and Norwich North's Ian Gibson on £142,375 to West Suffolk's Richard Spring on £102,011.

With relatively hefty costs of accommodation in the capital - unlike the nil bill for London members - only five of our MPs came in below the average overall expenses cost of an MP of £125,767.

Besides Mr Spring - in 601st place in the charge sheet for 646 MPs - they were Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk), Michael Lord (Central Suffolk and Ipswich North), John Gummer (Suffolk Coastal) and Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk).