THE borough’s MPs have each racked up more than £24,000 in the last 10 months on items including new furniture, advertising and newspapers.
Leigh MP Andy Burnham has the largest outlay for 2013-14 so far, having claimed for £29,731, with Makerfield MP Yvonne Fovargue and Wigan MP Lisa Nandy claiming £27,686 and £24,936, respectively - totalling more than £82,000 between them.
Some of the biggest outlays were in the cost of running constituency offices, with Ms Nandy spending £11,862 and Mr Burnham running up a bill of more than £17,000 on ensuring they retain a prominent building for constituents to visit. Ms Nandy’s bill included claiming more than £8,300 in rent charges and £511 for kitting out her new base at Wigan Investment Centre with furniture, as well as £457 on newspapers and journals.
Mr Burnham, meanwhile, spent £5,166 on rent and £661 on furniture, with further expenditure on items including cleaning fluid and recycling bins, while Ms Fovargue claimed for £8,343 in rent and £989 in stationery, also including claims such as £1.18 for a pack of telephone wipes and £4.42 for an air duster.
Ms Fovargue and Mr Burnham also claimed for a £4,800 subscription to the Parliamentary Research Service to help them in their work, while Ms Fovargue also paid £452 to subscribe to a Citizens’ Advice resource tool covering welfare issues.
MPs also claimed thousands of pounds on accommodation enabling them to stay in London while Westminster is sitting, setting them back between £9,422 and £9,731, while Ms Nandy, Mr Burnham and Ms Fovargue also racked up travel bills of £3,432, £1,978 and £1,974 respectively.
However, the parliamentarians defended the cost of transport and sometimes travelling on first-class services, saying their duties often meant rearranging schedules and booking expensive tickets at short notice and that ordering first-class tickets in advance could sometimes work out cheaper than buying standard seats nearer to the travel date. All three of the borough’s Westminster representatives also expressed their commitment to lowering the costs of politics and ensuring the claims process was transparent, following a series of damaging revelations about MPs’ expenses in recent years.
Ms Nandy said: “All office and staffing costs in connection with my work as Wigan’s MP are published online by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority so that my constituents can see for themselves how much it costs each year to represent them. I book train tickets to London well in advance in order to keep costs low.”
Ms Fovargue said: “The Prime Minister described ‘sunlight as the best disinfectant’ and I am acutely aware as a new MP of the public revulsion as details of the expenses scandal in the last parliament became public.
“I am very careful to ensure that I submit what is reasonable so that I can provide the best possible service to my constituents.”
Mr Burnham said: “I continue to ensure that I only claim the minimum necessary to fulfil my role as Leigh’s MP and work hard to keep the cost of travel as low as possible. My expense claims are within the rules and are subject to rigorous verification.”