MP second home claims a third down

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Indy Politics

MPs' claims for second home expenses slumped by more than a third in the wake of the scandal that engulfed Westminster, it was disclosed today.

Politicians received £6.8 million from the taxpayer to run properties in 2009-10 - down from £10.7 million the previous year.

The fall, revealed in new data published by the House of Commons, came amid public fury over abuses of allowances.

The saving to the public purse was partly offset by a significant hike in London allowance payouts. Until April 2009 MPs with constituencies outside inner London could choose whether to claim for a second home or receive a flat rate of just under £3,000 annually.

Some took advantage of the loophole to ramp up their expenses even though they were within easy commuting distance of Westminster.

The rules were then changed forcing all MPs with seats within 20 miles of parliament to take the allowance - but more than doubling the level to £7,500.

As a result London payouts soared from £148,904 in 2008-9 to £676,248 in 2009-10.

Figures were also disclosed for how much MPs who stood down at last year's general election spent on 'winding up' their offices.

A total of £6,820,423 was paid out to 221 departing MPs - including 45 who claimed more than £40,000.

The biggest payouts were for £42,732, made to Roger Berry, Michael Jabez Foster, Julie Morgan, Lembit Opik, Christine Russell, Phil Willis and Tony Wright.

The Commons has yet to supply details for so-called 'golden goodbyes' - effectively redundancy pay-offs for MPs who leave parliament that could be worth more than £50,000.

However, it is expected to release some of that material soon following freedom of information requests.

The information released by the Commons today covers the final period before the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) took over administering MPs' pay and expenses.

The new watchdog has already published details of claims between last May and October - but the House authorities have blamed processing difficulties for the extreme delay in disclosing its material.

Since Ipsa assumed responsibility, the expenses bill appears to have fallen even further, with accommodation costs totalling just over £2 million for six months.

However, many MPs are furious about "petty" bureaucracy and restrictions on claims that they say are hindering their work.

According to the Commons figures, MPs claimed £90.7 million across all allowance types in 2009-10 - a reduction from £95.6 million the previous year.

The sum was made up of:

£6,805,285 in second home costs;

£676,248 in London allowance;

£10,166,167 in office running costs;

£63,227,152 in staffing costs;

£5,408,986 in travel costs;

£478,691 for staff cover and other costs;

£3,972,600 in communications allowance.

The House was also due to issue transaction-level details of claims up to the General Election, including scans of all receipts from 2009-10, today.

However, more than three hours after the searchable database was due to go "live" on the Parliament website, it had yet to appear, with officials blaming technical problems.

The Commons' publication of expenses has been plagued with difficulties.

Having spent around £150,000 on a failed bid to avoid disclosing material under freedom of information laws, the authorities then laid out some £2 million processing and censoring receipts.

However, before that material could be released, the Daily Telegraph was leaked an uncensored version in May 2009 - exposing widespread abuses of the lax Westminster system.

Editing and scanning the latest set of allowances is likely to have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds more, especially because some work had to be repeated after data corrupted.

Although Ipsa is releasing transaction-level claims, it has said it will not be publishing copies of receipts due to the high cost.