MPs in Oxfordshire are now costing the taxpayer £50,000 more in claims than they did at the height of the expenses scandal.
The latest Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) figures reveal that last year the six Oxfordshire MPs claimed a total of £853,468.14 – 6.8 per cent more than the £799,054 paid out in 09/10, during the height of the scandal which led to the formation of the watchdog.
But the increase has been defended by Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, who said in an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail that the system was more transparent than ever.
He said: “Oxfordshire MPs work hard and we have the most transparent expenses system we’ve ever had.
“If people want to know what their MPs do, what they spend, what they get from them, I think it’s never been more clear.”
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith, who employs his wife Val as a caseworker for between £10,000 and £15,000, said MPs were no longer able to take advantage.
He said: “We don’t make the rules. We have to abide by them, and I believe that MPs are.”
The total claimed last year is an 8.1 per cent rise on 2011/12, which most MPs say reflects an increase in the staffing allowance from £115,000 to £137,000.
Mr Smith’s expenses rose from £142,000 to £165,000 and he claimed around £156,000 in 2009/10.
He saw a £21,000 rise in employee costs, from £114,000 to £136,000, and said it was to “help constituents”.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood’s claims rose by 12 per cent and her staffing costs by more than £15k. She said her workload had increased significantly since 2010 and said: “So, too, has my need for staffing support.”
Wantage MP Ed Vaizey’s constituency office fees rose dramatically after he employed caseworker Lynda Atkins.
Mr Vaizey, whose overall claims rose by 10 per cent, but were less than in 09/10, said: “I find it helps dealing with complex cases and means I have someone on the ground to meet constituents when I’m not there.”
Henley MP John Howell, Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry and Witney MP Mr Cameron all saw their expenses rise by less than five per cent from last year. Dr Howell said he had “significantly underspent the budget.”
Sir Tony, who claimed the highest rise from 2009/10 to 2012/13, said: “Any increase simply reflects IPSA-approved increases in the salary of my staff.”
Darren Belcher, 46, of Comfrey Road, Oxford – in Mr Smith’s constituency – said: “I would like to see them come down here and live on what we have to.”
Gordon Clack, 83, of Witney Road, Ducklington – in Mr Cameron’s constituency – said: “They haven’t learned a thing from before.”
Claims included £2,469 to Mr Smith for 98 car journeys to or from Westminster and a mileage claim for £61.20 for Mr Cameron’s secretary to travel from her home in Surrey to Witney.
The total amount claimed by MPs nationally was £98m in 2012/13, up by 7.1 per cent from £91.5m in 2011/12. The amount claimed in 2009/10 was £90.7m.
The MP who claimed the highest amount was North Antrim’s Ian Paisley Jr, who claimed £232,042.33.
Tory Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) was at the other end of the scale after he claimed nothing at all.
HOW MUCH YOUR MP CLAIMED IN EXPENSES LAST YEAR
Nicola Blackwood £158,422.67
Sir Tony Baldry £141,339.87
David Cameron £121,872.97
John Howell £134,613.68
Andrew Smith £165,235.45
Ed Vaizey £131,983.50