Barking and Dagenham MPs £1.4m expense bill among highest in London
- Credit: Archant
New figures have revealed the two MPs representing Barking and Dagenham were among the biggest spenders in London over the last Parliament – costing the taxpayer £1.4million in expenses.
Our investigation, looking at thousands of claims over the last five years, has shown Labour MP for Barking, Margaret Hodge, had the 10th highest expenses bill in the capital at £708,492.
Fellow Labour MP Jon Cruddas, who represents Dagenham and Rainham, was not far behind in 13th place, with costs of £699,358.
Yet both MPs said bulging caseloads explained the high figures – saying “every single penny” is spent helping constituents.
Other key findings include:
* Both MPs spent significantly more than the London average on office costs
* Claims by both MPs rose less quickly than the average for London’s 72 MPs
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* Ms Hodge’s expenses actually fell over the last full year in comparison to a capital-wide rise
Our data, compiled using tens of thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), revealed London’s MPs are spending 18 per cent more on average than they were five years ago.
However the rise in costs was not as steeply marked for the Post’s two MPs, whose combined spending rose by eight per cent, or just under £26,000.
Ms Hodge’s expenses actually fell from 2013-14 to 2014-15 in contrast to London-wide rise.
Yet both MPs remained among London’s highest spenders.
‘We have very heavy caseloads’
Ms Hodge was 14 per cent above the London average and Mr Cruddas 12 per cent, an indication, both said, of heavy caseloads carrying out work on behalf of constituents.
Veteran Labour MP Ms Hodge said: “Not a penny of this money comes to me personally. It is spent funding the important work that I do for residents in the borough.
“I have one of the busiest offices of any MP. Over 100 residents contact me every week for my help on difficult issues ranging from homelessness to serious health complaints and benefit problems.
“I also hold regular coffee afternoons and street meetings to successfully tackle local issues.
“The majority of this money is spent on employing the excellent and hard-working staff who deliver the high service that my constituents deserve.”
Changes to constituency boundaries
Fellow Labour MP Mr Cruddas said changes to constituency boundaries in 2010 had increased his workload.
“I have well over 1,500 cases a month and rising,” he said. “Post 2010, constituency boundaries were reset to cover nearly 30,000 residents in Havering as well as 40,000 residents in Dagenham.
“This means dealing with two housing departments, two education departments and two councils, which puts greater demands on our caseworkers and the overall operation of the office because a lot of work is duplicated.”
Staffing and payroll
The two local MPs spent similar amounts on staffing and payroll, which was by far the largest chunk of expenses claimed by all London MPs. Office costs was the second highest area of spending.
In this category Ms Hodge was 54 per cent above the London average and Mr Cruddas 31 per cent.
He said: “The office costs reflect the costs of running our full time office in Rainham Road South. Every penny is spent on servicing our constituents, many, many of whom are really struggling.”
All MPs are entitled to claim expenses to aid their parliamentary work in addition to a basic salary, which was set at £67,000 but recently rose to £74,000 per year.
* Do you have a story for our investigations unit? Contact Emma Youle on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7433 0122.