REVEALED: MPs spend £200k of taxpayers' cash renting homes they don't need

We’re spending thousands renting homes for MPs who live no further from Westminster than many commuters

What’s your commute? 30 minutes? An hour? More? In London, more than an hour each way is pretty common, especially for those who live on the outskirts or in the Home Counties.

In fact, we all have colleagues who live in exotic destinations such as Reading, Brighton, Basingstoke and Suffolk – commutes that can easily take an hour and a half each way.

But how many people who live an hour away from work feel the need to rent another home nearby?

LondonlovesBusiness.com has identified four MPs whose constituencies are in the commuter belt but who still claim a combined £200,000 worth of expenses on renting a second home. Some designate London as their first home, and rent a property in their constituency, while others designate their constituency as home and rent in London. But either way, they’re claiming for a property most people would argue they don’t need. (More on the rules below.)

We looked at MPs’ expense claims from the last five years and cross-referenced them with the time it takes to travel door-to-door from each MP’s home in their constituency to the Houses of Parliament. We found, while most MPs in the South East would face a journey of a couple of hours, some lived in places that were easily accessible.

These four MPs have only about an hour’s commute to parliament:

 

Greg Clark, Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells

How much he’s claimed since 2010: £70,169.57

Greg Clark MP

The MP for Tunbridge Wells lives approximately an hour away from Westminster. He can jump on a train every 30 minutes from Tunbridge Wells which takes 55 minutes to get to Charing Cross, walk to Embankment and get the District Line one stop to Westminster, the station of which comes out adjacent to parliament. This takes roughly 59 minutes (though we haven’t factored in the time it takes to get to Tunbridge Wells station, from his home in the town).

Clark has claimed £70,169.57 in accommodation expenses since 2010.

 

Helen Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone and the Weald

How much she’s claimed since 2010: £51,407.73

Helen Grant MP

We worked out that the Maidstone and the Weald MP could get to Westminster in somewhere between 59 minutes and one hour and four minutes, depending on where in the constituency she lives (some MPs were not forthcoming about their addresses, which we understand). Grant told LondonlovesBusiness.com she did not have a second home in London but would not detail her exact arrangements.

Grant has claimed £51,407.73 in accommodation expenses since 2010.

 

Iain Stewart, Conservative MP for Milton Keynes South

How much he’s claimed since 2010: £31,500

Milton Keynes to Westminster

If the Milton Keynes South MP lives in Tattenhoe, as we understand it, it would take him an hour and 11 minutes to reach parliament from home if he drove/got a taxi to Milton Keynes Central station and got the train and Tube.

Stewart has claimed £31,500 in accommodation expenses since 2010.

 

Maria Miller, Conservative MP for Basingstoke

How much she’s claimed since 2010: £43,310

Maria Miller

The MP for Basingstoke, who stood down as culture secretary a year ago after an expenses scandal, could get to Westminster in an hour and four minutes from Basingstoke with 10 minutes or so added on for the journey from Old Basing, a town in her constituency where we believe she lives.

Miller has claimed £43,310 in accommodation expenses since 2010.

 

Total cost to taxpayer: £196,387.30

These four MPs have cost the taxpayer £196,387.30 in housing costs in the last five years, according to Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority figures.

Let’s be clear, nobody has broken any rules, but if the MP’s constituents can commute for an hour, then why can’t MPs?

We reached out to all four candidates for comments but they did not respond directly to LondonlovesBusiness.com’s story.

 

Why do MPs rent in London?

MPs generally don’t have to be at Westminster full time, and would say they divide their time between two places. They usually spend only four days a week in parliament, often staying late for votes and events, and spend the rest of the week in their constituency. However, in the year running up to the general election, many MPs have been spending more time back in their constituencies, and roughly three days a week in London.

MPs who live far enough away are allowed to claim expenses on a flat in London – perfectly necessary for someone who has a constituency in Glasgow, Newcastle or even Brighton.

However, some MPs are renting homes on the taxpayer, when their constituencies are just outside the capital.

Contrary to popular belief, MPs do not need to live in their constituency, or even in the UK.

What are the rules for renting second homes?

MPs used to be able to buy second homes and claim back mortgage interest payments, but after the expenses scandal in 2009/10, MPs can only rent property or stay in hotel rooms at the taxpayers’ expense.

London MPs are not allowed to claim to rent a second home, because they shouldn’t need one as their constituencies are so close to Westminster.

MPs can claim up to £20,600 a year, which is worked out to be the cost of renting a one-bedroom flat in the capital, plus tenancy fees, council tax, bills, contents insurance, security measures and a TV licence.

Instead of renting, MPs are allowed to claim for a hotel up to £150 a night in London.

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Readers' comments (10)

  • Think the answer lies in your own text:

    'often staying late for votes and events,
    '
    After public transport closes down?

    The real answer is to have a 'hall of residence' for MPS's. Every MP has a room, and not fees etc., and make it a condition of being an MP for an area is that you have to be resident there (notunreasonable!)

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  • Hi Brian, thanks for your comment.

    Yes I agree with you about the halls of residence.

    Most normal workplaces would expect staff who live an hour away to get a hotel if they work too late to get home, rather than renting a flat for them, though.

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  • The greed and corruption of the expenses scandal never really went away, it just changed its mask

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  • Robyn - you're right about using a hotel if necessary - let's face it, they are unlikely to need it that often
    The real issue here is that we all see these abuses by politicians and others (e.g. yesterdays' revelations of the obscene salaries for CEOs of Housing Associations, which are allegedly charities) but we the electorate seem to have absolutely no real ability to bring them to book or make any change whatsoever.
    We have an election looming but it won't be fought on those issues and so they will get away with it
    Perhaps, if we all wrote "none of them" on the ballot paper, we might have a glimmer of hope that we can change it.
    These days, I feel almost everyone who asks for your vote doesn't deserve it - there are a few exceptions but most politicians are in it for their own benefit, not yours and mine

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  • Further to Robyn & Brian's discussions, this is over five years, so most of the ones referenced are around £150 a week.

    Also, you have to draw the line somewhere on these things, and IPSA have already done this. If they move it so only MPs from further away are allowed, these articles will still appear, then if they move it further away as a result of those articles the same will happen again, ad infinitum...

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  • Four Tory MPs cited....but you chose to leave out the FOURTEEN Labour MPs that do the same thing? Including Chris Bryant and Jim Murphy?

    Political Bias much???

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  • As usual everyone focuses on headlines. The cost mentioned equates to 66 nights per year (just over 1 night per week) per MP, if the hotel were £150 (difficult near Westminster). Don't forget train / travel costs presumably are not being claimed in addition to nights away. What do you think real estate prices would be for building a hall of residence for 630 people near Westminster???

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  • Much as I like the "hall of residence" idea, the real solution is to provide MPs lump sum expenses based on their constituencies' distance from Westminster. Thus avoid loopholes and high admin costs.

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  • A scam that the consitives MP have found to boost their income, We are beeing rob blind by the so call people advicate.
    It is about time that they were all put in their place and held to account, especillay if they want my vote.

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  • Gary Chaplin - I have to say, you post nothing but angry comments when we mention any Tory MP in a negative way but are strangely quiet when it's a negative story about any other party. Perhaps your anger should be directed towards the candidates, rather than the newspapers. The comment you made about Labour MPs is ridiculous. How on earth would Chris Bryant be expected to commute more than SEVEN HOURS a day?! And Jim Murphy more than TEN HOURS. He'd get home and have to set off again. You have no idea what you're talking about. I looked at more then 100 MPs whose constituencies are in the east or south east and these are the only ones who claim expenses on a second home and live so near.

    Anyone who is questioning how much MPs should be spending should look at a northern MP such as Conservative Jason McCartney. He stays in a hotel during the time he's in London and is much better value for the taxpayer.

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