Stevenage MP's letter reignites expenses anger
AN MP s bid to give the facts about her expenses claims has been met with anger from her constituents. The public furore over MPs expenses claims has died down, but last week Barbara Follett, MP for Stevenage, delivered a letter to every household in h
AN MP's bid to "give the facts" about her expenses claims has been met with anger from her constituents.
The public furore over MPs' expenses claims has died down, but last week Barbara Follett, MP for Stevenage, delivered a letter to every household in her constituency on the subject.
She writes how sorry she is to have caused distress, but explains: "I receive a salary and I am entitled to claim for some of the costs of running my constituency and parliamentary offices.
"I am also entitled to claim for some of the costs of running a second home." She acknowledges that this is what has caused the most controversy, writing: "Sadly, some of my colleagues have not used this allowance in the way it was intended."
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She explains she needs a second home because "Parliament's hours are long and unpredictable".
But constituent Jeff Bullock said: "She lives within a comfortable commuting distance of London and therefore should have no reason to claim for a second home.
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"For the few occasions she is unable to return, reasonable hotel expenses would be appropriate."
Mrs Follett recognises that it was felt the �6,244 a year she claimed between 2004 and 2008 to pay for security at her second home was "excessive" and that "because the books my husband writes have made him a wealthy man, I should have got him to foot the whole bill."
But she claims threatening letters and phone calls over the years were all to do with her political activities. "They were also the reason why I acquired a stalker; had my constituency office invaded; had a brick thrown through its window; had a man harassing my parliamentary staff and a dead fox draped across my gate.
"I did not consider my security measures wrong," but repaid the money after "consideration of feedback from constituents".
Mr Bullock said: "There are many constituents who live in fear and do not have the luxury of being able to afford personal protection."
Another constituent, who lives in Mildmay Road in Stevenage, said: "I would like to know, in view of her explanation, how �1,600 for window cleaning could be considered a justifiable parliamentary expense? Does serving as an MP make one's windows more grubby?"
Mr Bullock is so incensed by Mrs Follett's letter he has threatened to stand against her in the next election, if she does not stand down.
He said her attempt to justify her expenses claims was "unconvincing".
"It is not about what she could claim for in expenses, it is about what was morally right. Considering her personal circumstances, I would suggest none.
"Her actions and those of a few others have brought down the integrity of the many MPs who have acted honourably."
Mrs Follett concludes her letter by writing: "I have never profited in any way at all from my job as an MP...but the system is bad and I welcome the long overdue efforts to put things right.
"I am sorry politics and politicians have let you down so badly.