£1.3million expense bill for Tower Hamlets MPs: What do they spend and why?
PUBLISHED: 08:28 30 October 2015
A probe into expenses has shown the two MPs who represent Tower Hamlets cost the taxpayer £1.3million in payments for staff, office costs and travel over the past five years.
Our investigation, looking at thousands of claims over the last Parliament, has shown Bethnal Green and Bow Labour MP Rushanara Ali was the highest spender of the two, billing £674,982 for costs carrying out her parliamentary work from 2010 to 2015.
Fellow Labour MP for Poplar and Canning Town, Jim Fitzpatrick, had a lower expenses bill at £625,600 and both MPs’ total claims were above the average for London.
Other key findings include:
Some of the quirkier claims
- The smallest single claims over the last Parliament were 10p for a box of 100 paper clips by Rushanara Ali and 46p for batteries by Jim Fitzpatrick.
- In 2014-15 Rushanara Ali claimed £9.89 for a clock and £4.91 for a 24-hour wall clock. The previous year she claimed £16.75 for another clock.
- In 2013-14 Rushanara Ali claimed £13.94 for a box of 100 Earl Grey teabags and £13.97 for hot chocolate.
- The same year she claimed £2.83 for a pair of gloves.
- In 2013-14 Jim Fitzpatrick claimed £827.39 for an iPad, in 2012-13 £901.93 for a Dell laptop and in 2011-12 £718 for an iPad.
- In 2012-13 Jim Fitzpatrick claimed £1,069.20 for a new website.
- The same year he claimed £4,800 for research services.
- In 2011-12 Jim Fitzpatrick claimed £15.60 for Mont Blanc ink.
- In 2010-11 Rushanara Ali claimed £545.10 for office chairs and £1,482 for furniture and equipment from Ikea and HomeSense.
- Both MPs ranked mid-table for total claims when compared to the capital’s 72 MPs. Ms Ali was 20th and Mr Fitzpatrick 36th.
- Combined spending by the local MPs has risen by 21 per cent since 2011, outstripping the London average of 18 per cent.
Our investigation found no evidence among local MPs of the sorts of claims that caused the expenses scandal in 2009. In fact both have a good record of transparency, with expenses fully logged and simple for the casual observer to understand.
MPs claims bills are rising
Trends in our data, compiled using tens of thousands of records from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), revealed London MPs are spending 18 per cent more on average than they were four years ago.
The Tower Hamlets MPs’ total expense claims have risen by faster than the London average, Ms Ali by 21 per cent and Mr Fitzpatrick by 20 per cent.
Ms Ali said: “Expenses should not be viewed as a ‘league table’ as all MPs have different constituency profiles, office costs, staff and workload.
“Bethnal Green and Bow is a constituency with huge inequalities and my office deals with a high volume of casework.”
100 to 200 emails a day
In contrast to a London-wide rise, Mr Fitzpatrick’s spending actually fell year-on-year in 2014 by six per cent.
When contacted by the Advertiser, the Poplar and Canning Town MP said he did not wish to comment on the findings of our investigation.
However he said: “I get 100 to 200 emails everyday, fewer at weekends. I have thousands signed up to my weekly newsletter, Twitter and, or, Facebook page.
“At my Friday advice surgeries, my Saturday morning door-knocking and my own tours of the Houses of Parliament I have met nearly 20,000 constituents.
“If any constituent wants to ask something they are welcome to email.”
Staffing and payroll
The Tower Hamlet’s MPs spent almost identical amounts on staffing and payroll, which was by far the largest chunk of expenses claimed by all London MPs. Office costs were the second highest area of spending.
In this category both MPs spent more than average for London. Ms Ali’s office spending, at £116,810, from 2010 to 2015 was 17 per cent above and Mr Fitzpatrick, at £104,600, five per cent above.
“My office costs are fairly reflected in the office allowance costs I claim,” said Ms Ali, whose constituency office is in Cambridge Heath Road, Bethnal Green. “What is paramount is that my office has the capacity to serve my constituents in the most effective way possible.”
None of the London’s MPs spent significant amounts on travel, but the two local MPs were well below the average spend of £2,999.
Ms Ali billed just £239 and Mr Fitzpatrick £1,752 over the entire of the last parliament.
“My constituency is close to Westminster and I can confirm that I pay for my own Oyster card, and the vast majority of work-related travel costs, to avoid any confusion between personal and business travel,” said Ms Ali. “I am happy to do this and bear the cost.”
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.
MPs’ expenses scandal
However the expenses scheme was brought into disrepute in 2009 following revelations that a minority had been claiming for items such as decorative ornaments, entertainment equipment and - perhaps most notably - a duck house.
Action was taken to clean-up politics and IPSA was set up to monitor expense spending.
IPSA chief executive Marcial Boo said: “As the regulator of the public funds that go to MPs, IPSA ensures that taxpayers’ money is used transparently, and that MPs are appropriately resourced to carry out their parliamentary functions.”