Britain’s most costly MP defends spending

A YORKSHIRE MP has been forced to defend himself after annual accounts published by the Parliamentary authorities revealed he was the country’s most expensive MP last year.

Greg Mulholland, the Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, claimed more than £188,000 in staff salaries and expenses during 2011/12 – the highest in the country.

Mr Mulholland said his costs had been unusually high because two people working in his constituency office had been off work with sickness for more than six months, and he had been forced to apply to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) for extra funding.

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A statement from his office said: “Mr Mulholland’s staffing costs were higher than in previous years as a result of the ongoing health problems of two members of staff in his constituency office, both of whom were unable to work for more than six months.

“To ensure he could continue to fulfil his parliamentary duties and work on behalf of his constituents, he had no option but to apply to Ipsa’s contingency budget, which provides additional funding to employ temporary staff to cover for sickness absence.

“The additional costs were closely scrutinised and approved by IPSA. Mr Mulholland is pleased these problems of ill-health have now passed, and anticipates his costs will return to normal in the current year.”

In all, the bill for MPs’ expenses went up by a quarter to nearly £90m last year, with politicians spending the money on second homes, staff, travel and office costs – including dozens of iPads.

But Ipsa – set up in 2009 in the wake of the expenses scandal – said the actual rate of claims had remained “stable”. Although the total outlay for 2010-11 had been £71m, that figure was misleadingly low because of the impact of the general election.

Comment: Page 16.