MP hits back over expenses
MP Oliver Heald has denied that expenses claims he made for petty cash amount to possible serious abuse of the expenses system. The North East Herts MP said the money was used for general office supplies, and to meet expenses of work experience voluntee
MP Oliver Heald has denied that expenses claims he made for petty cash amount to "possible serious abuse" of the expenses system.
The North East Herts MP said the money was used for general office supplies, and to meet expenses of work experience volunteers.
Mr Heald was speaking after full details of MPs' expenses were published last week on the parliamentary website. The details show several petty cash claims for �250 - the maximum amount allowed per month.
Subsequently, constituent Ian Fairbairn has written to Mr Heald, asking him to explain these figures.
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Mr Fairbairn, of Great Hormead, said in his letter: "From the fact that this 'petty cash' money does not appear to have been accounted for and the fact that the sums are usually at the maximum allowable - to the penny - there arises a very reasonable suspicion that your use of it is not legitimate.
"This looks like a possible serious abuse," he said.
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However, Mr Heald said: "The suggestion that the petty cash was used incorrectly is baseless and wrong. These claims are to be independently audited and I am confident that my claims bear scrutiny."
The MP also denied that his petty cash claims exceeded the maximum �3,000 allowed per year, despite the fact that it appears that his 2005/06 claims amounted to �3,250.
He said: "In 2005/06 I claimed �3,000. One claim relates to the previous financial year 2004/05 and is annotated accordingly.
"That money was spent in two ways. Firstly for general supplies, such as toner or printer paper, for our office in Royston and the one we run in London.
"Also I've always had work experience people in, and refund their expenses, such as travel costs, out of petty cash.
"I would usually wait until the amount had reached �250, and submit a claim form then."
Mr Heald claimed �156,594 of expenses in 2007/08, of which �22,979 was second home allowance.
In a two-month period, Mr Heald claimed �32.80 for pens and �96.30 for a select band of newspapers which included the Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph and Crow's sister paper The Comet for which he claimed 75p a week. A hole punch for his office cost taxpayers �7.99.
South Cambridgeshire MP Andrew Lansley claimed total expenses of �156,411 in 2007/08, of which �21,399 was second home allowance.
Amongst other things, the South Cambridgeshire MP spent �383 of tax payers' money on a washing machine.
Mr Lansley caused controversy last month when national newspaper reports revealed he had changed his designated second home from a house in Melbourn to a flat in London, a process known as flipping. Before making the change, Mr Lansley claimed �4,000 for renovations to the Melbourn property, and months later sold it for �433,000.
He has since paid back �2,600 of the cash claimed.