By Ian Dipple Friday 20 September 2013 Updated: 23/09 11:45
REDDITCH’S MP has defended her expenses after it was revealed she claimed more than her predecessor Jacqui Smith at the height of the expenses scandal.
Official figures show Karen Lumley was the highest claiming MP in Worcestershire in 2012/13 with more than £169,935 paid out. The lowest was Worcester MP Robin Walker who claimed £131,673.
The amount claimed increased from more than £144,731 in 2011/12 largely as a result of a leap of more than £22,000 in Ms Lumley’s payroll costs.
The overall figure is over £24,000 more than Ms Smith claimed in 2008/09 when she was paid out £144,505.
Nationally the cost of MPs expenses is seven per cent higher than during the scandal that rocked Westminster four years ago despite the introduction of new restrictions and an independent regulator IPSA. It has led to questions about whether or not the system has truly been reformed.
Mrs Lumley said all MPs had been given extra money last year approved by IPSA for a staff wage increase in recognition of rising demand and she had also been granted additional funds as a member of her staff was on maternity leave.
“The four of my staff are working extremely hard and this is the first time they have had a pay increase. They did not get massive pay rises, they got a one per cent increase the same as everybody else,” Mrs Lumley said.
She said while her staff costs were higher than Ms Smith’s she claimed less in other areas including the fact she only claimed 50 per cent of her travel entitlement as she shared lifts with her husband to and from London to cut costs.
“If I wanted to I could claim council tax, £10 a night for food every time we sit past 7pm, television licence, but I don’t claim any of it,” she said.
“The biggest cost is staffing and I think that’s right, we should have the members of staff to do the job.
“If I didn’t employ enough staff and people had to wait weeks for a response my phone would be ringing off the hook.”
Mrs Lumley said there was more work to do to reform the expenses system but admitted the previous scandal meant the public were sceptical.
“We’re in a situation where we are less trusted than the News of the World. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. You try to do a good job and people have a pop at you and that’s because past MPs have let us down.”
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