Anger at MP's slice of the expenses cake

HIGH Peak MP Tom Levitt has defended his expenses after it was revealed that he had claimed the eighth highest amount in a league table of more than 640 MPs.

For 2006/2007 he claimed a total of 168,660 – an increase of 29,103 on the previous year.

He defended the figures which included 31,000 for stationery and postage, almost double the amount for the previous year.

"On postage, we are charged for envelopes when we receive them, not when we post them," he said.

"This year my figure for postage was skewed upwards by having a significant stock of unused envelopes at the year end last April," he explained.

However Mr Levitt's expenses have come under fire from political opponents who questioned whether it represented value for money.

Stephen Sharp, Lib Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, said: "I am the first to accept that democracy doesn't come cheap, but I really would like to know how anyone can justify these figures from public money.

"Perhaps if Mr Levitt represented the electorate of the High Peak instead of being a Westminster 'yes man' he might find his requirement to write back to people grossly diminished," said Mr Sharp.

"I doubt I am on my own in assuming that nearly all his postbag is not congratulating him on the excellent service he does for the High Peak.

"It is the total hypocrisy of the situation which is the most galling. Mr Levitt is a man who voted for a miserly 75p a week rise for pensioners, for making students pay top-up fees, and who is supporting a government offering a peanuts pay rise of 2.475% to local government workers across the country."

Andrew Bingham, Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, said: "There is no escaping 168,000 is an awful lot of money when people in High Peak look at what they take home and what they spend in a year. It is a figure that doesn't bear much relation to reality.

"People will judge whether they are getting good value for money from their member of parliament at the next general election and that's the judgement they will make," said Mr Bingham.

"It is a shame Mr Brown was too frightened to give us that chance."

Mr Levitt hit back by highlighting the overall figure for spending covering the running of an office, staff, rent, rates etc reflected the real costs of running a busy office.

"It is less than many small businesses of the same size would cost to run," he said. "I think it is important that MPs communicate effectively with their constituents – that is, after all, how we are held accountable.

"We should be more worried by those MPs who do not employ the staff they are entitled to or who keep their constituents in the dark by not writing to them!

"Most of the categories of expenditure are governed by strict limits and all are governed by very strict rules.

"In every case my spending was within those limits and within the rules," added Mr Levitt.

See the next page for how other local MPs compare to Mr Levitt.How local MPs compare

Tom Levitt - High Peak - majority 735

London Accommodation 20,310

Office running costs 23,403

Staff 80,085

Members travel 11,842

Staff travel 475

Stationery 7,915

Postage 23,700

Computer Equip 930

Total 168,660

Charlotte Atkins - Staffordshire Moorlands - majority 2,438

London Accommodation 22,110

Office running costs 21,557

Staff 86,159

Members travel 7,234

Staff travel 1,538

Stationery 4,431

Postage 12,823

Computer Equip 1,058

Total 156,908

Patrick McLoughlin - West Derbyshire -

majority 10,753

London Accommodation 21,869

Office running costs 19,593

Staff 82,019

Members travel 11,131

Staff travel 307

Stationery 735

Postage 2,224

Computer Equip 1,142

Staff cover 9,642

Total 148,622

Nicholas Winterton - Macclesfield

- majority 9,401

London Accommodation 14,797

Office running costs 12,251

Staff 58,469

Members travel 6,207

Staff travel 0

Stationery 466

Postage 2310

Computer Equip 1449

Total 95,949

Click the following links for a full breakdown of MP's expenses.