HIGH Peak MP Tom Levitt used taxpayers' cash to buy a single wine glass costing £21.50, it emerged this week – just as cash-strapped families continue to struggle in the run-up to Christmas.
Mr Levitt bought the glass along with four towels, a casserole set and a cutlery set, all totalling 147.50, on March 9, 2009.
A receipt for the items, bought from John Lewis in Oxford Street, London, is included in newly-released documents revealing the elected representative's second home allowance, which was used between April 2008 and March 2009.
During that time, Mr Levitt claimed a total of 20,522.58, which included 5,820 spent on equipment to refurbish his kitchen.
Across the East Midlands this year, 47 per cent of people have worries about debt and not having enough money, according to a survey by Samaritans and YouGov.
The Buxton Advertiser contacted Mr Levitt, asking: "Was it acceptable for taxpayers to pay these prices?"
However, Mr Levitt defended the claims, saying just one item – a sofa bed purchased in 2004 – had been deemed "extravagant" by Sir Thomas Legg, the independent auditor who has investigated expenses claims made by all MPs. All other purchases were approved by Sir Thomas, according to Mr Levitt.
But on June 7 2008, Mr Levitt claimed for hair clippers bought in Boots in Buxton – and the item was not signed off by The House of Commons' Fees Office.
In a letter to Mr Levitt, they wrote: "This constitutes a personal item and not a cost wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties."
Speaking about the hair clippers, Mr Levitt acknowledged the item "should not have been claimed".
He stressed: "The claim was not paid."
But he added: "I do think it unfair that claims not approved are included in the list along with claims that were approved.
"However, this example shows that the Fees Office didn't say 'yes' to everything – and did exercise discretion in what they approved."
* Mr Levitt, 55, will stand down at the next election, which must be held on or before June 3 2010.
As previously reported, upon standing down, he will be able to claim a resettlement grant of up to 54,403.44 – 84 per cent of his final salary.
* Transparency over glasses: High Peak MP Tom Levitt's expenses claim for 21.50, was for four glasses, not one as stated above. However, the John Lewis receipt for the glasses clearly referred to only one item, and our e-mail to Mr Levitt also queried the cost of it as a single item, but this was not picked up as an issue by the MP.