MPs’ Allowances

John Leech MP‘s Allowances

As a public servant, I believe that it is only right that the expenses that I claim as a Member of Parliament should be accessible and transparent so that my constituents can see what I claim and why. Last July I voted in favour of regular reporting and appropriate auditing of the use of MPs‘ expenses and allowances, the publication of claims made for each allowance and claimable expense and the publication of the names and salary bands of all relatives employed by MPs.

In addition, throughout the whole process of the Freedom of Information requests being made into MPs‘ expenses, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I opposed any attempts to block the release of information on expenses, and have consistently supported transparency on the issue.

Summary

The breakdown of my expense claims shows where my priorities lie – in working hard for the residents of Manchester Withington and in representing them here and in Parliament.

This means that the vast majority of my expense claims go on staffing and running my busy office in East Didsbury, where all of my paid staff are based, and none of whom are family members. My office is accessible to the public Monday to Friday and is located at 8 Gawsworth Avenue, East Didsbury, Manchester, M20 5NF.

My ‘second homes’ allowance is low compared with the vast majority of MPs and it is falling each year – in the last financial year I claimed just over half of the allowance. This year (08/09) it has fallen still further to £8,684.20 – in 07/08 that would have put me in the lowest 5% of all MPs that are eligible to claim the allowance (London MPs cannot claim this allowance). Below is an outline of the allowances that I can claim as an MP to help me represent my constituents, along with information on what each is for and the amount that I have claimed. I have also provided a comparison with other Manchester MPs below the allowances and at the bottom of this page.*

PDF copies of expense claims made by all MPs can be viewed here. A copy of my most recent ‘second homes’ allowance claims is available here.

Salary

As an MP, I receive £64,766 in salary and a final salary pension scheme.

Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure (PAAE)

Previously known as the Additional Costs Allowance, this is the allowance that has become known as the ‘second homes’ allowance in the media. The PAAE covers the cost of a mortgage or rent on a second home or hotel costs if an MP chooses to stay in a hotel rather than buy or rent an additional property. For the last financial year (08/09) the PAAE limit was £24,006.

When I became an MP back in 2005 I stayed in hotels for a while until I was able to buy a modest former council flat in Battersea. Manchester is my main home and will always be. I chose to buy a flat because I calculated that it would save the taxpayer money – my mortgage interest (I pay the capital on the mortgage) is about £600/month, whereas if I rented the cost averages between £1250 and £1600 each month.

I bought furniture for the flat in the first 2 parliamentary years, claimed subsistence for being in London at less than the allowable amount and paid my utility bills. I haven’t bought any furniture for the flat since the end of the 2006/07 financial year. Because of the costs of initially setting up my flat, my ACA claim for 2005/6 was £21,437, this dropped to £19,287 (412th highest of 645 MPs) the following year and then the last year for which expenses have been published this fell to £12,993, putting me in the bottom 20% of all MPs. This figure has fallen further this year to £8,684.20. If this were the figure for 07/08 (the last year for which all MPs‘ expenses have been published) this would put me in the lowest spending 5% of all MPs that can claim the allowance.

Travel Expenditure

The Travel Expenditure used to be known as the Travel Allowance and is used to allow me to travel between Manchester and Parliament as I need to on a weekly basis to carry out my parliamentary duties. In addition, members of my staff may share up to 24 single journeys each year as long as these journeys are between London and the constituency and are made in connection with the MP‘s parliamentary duties – training at the House of Commons for example.

Given the differing nature of MPs‘ constituencies, there is no limit on the amount that an MP can spend on travel as those representing constituencies that are a long way from London, like Orkney and Shetland will inevitably have to spend more than others who represent areas nearer the capital. In the last financial year I spent £7,660 (316th). In 2006/07 I spent £9,502 (241st) and in 2005/06 I spent £13,524 on travel. I normally travel by train as this is the quickest way for me to get from Manchester to Westminster, although on occasion I do need to drive down. Whenever possible I look to find the cheapest train tickets available but the nature of my job is such that it is often difficult for me to know a long time in advance when I will need to travel down to London from week to week.

Name PAAE 07/08 Member’s Travel 07/08 PAAE & Member’s Travel 07/08 Ranking out of 5
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) £19,706 £14,104 £33,810 1
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) £20,042 £12,752 £32,794 2
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) £13,558 £15,255 £28,813 3
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) £20,824 £6,932 £27,756 4
John Leech (Manchester Withington) £12,993 £7,660 £20,653 5

Administrative and Office Expenditure (AOE)

Previously known as the Incidental Expenses Provision, the AOE is used to cover the costs of running a constituency office and allows for the rent of a premises, the utility bills associated with running and maintaining an office, the purchase of office equipment, stationery, etc. It also covers the cost of the rent of space for the surgeries that I hold for constituents to raise any concerns that they have with me. At present I hold 7 surgeries each month across the constituency. My priority is working hard for my constituents and being accessible to them, and there are certain costs that will inevitably arise from that. So after staffing costs, the AOE is the allowance for which I claim the most. This is because, unlike many other MPs, I have an office that is open to the public 5 days a week. It is an extremely busy office, with a large workload and this means that certain costs arise – for example, last year the phone bill alone cost nearly £4,000. Each year I look to make savings, which is why the claims I make each year have come down. This year the limit for the AOE is £22,393 and in the last financial year I spent £17,380 (375th highest of all MPs) the previous year I spent £19,268 (415th) and the year before that, my first as an MP, I spent £25,237 given the set up costs associated with being a new MP and having to get my office up and running.

Staffing Expenditure

Staffing expenditure (formerly the Staffing Allowance) is the allowance that is used to cover staff salaries and employer’s National Insurance contributions, as well as any redundancy settlements or payments for bought-in services such as training. This year the limit is £103,812.

Last year (07/08) I spent £94,425 (64th), the year before £87,371 (150th) and the year before that £77,239. This is the allowance on which I spend the most because the volume of work that comes into the office means that I have to employ more staff than a lot of other MPs. I don’t employ any family members. The amount of work is increasing all the time, which I hope is a reflection of the work that my staff and I are doing as my constituents see that they get a good service from us. This means that my staffing costs have increased to meet the increased demand.

Name AOE 07/08 Staffing Expenditure 07/08 AOE & Staffing Expenditure 07/08 Ranking out of 5
John Leech (Manchester Withington) £17,380 £94,425 £111,805 1
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) £23,043 £88,060 £111,103 2
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) £29,032 £77,553 £106,585 3
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) £10,046 £80,531 £90,577 4
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) £17,123 £70,369 £87,492 5

Communications Expenditure

This is the allowance that lets me keep in touch with my constituents. Previously known as the Communications Allowance, it is used to meet the cost of regular reports and constituency newsletters; questionnaires, surveys and petitions as well as advertising surgeries and constituency meetings. It also pays for envelopes, stamps, etc, which enables me to maintain regular contact with constituents and to respond as fully as possible to their concerns. This year’s limit is £10,400 and last year I spent £9,772 (joint 192nd).

Name Communications Expenditure 07/08 Ranking out of 5
John Leech (Manchester Withington) £9,772 1
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) £4,172 2
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) £3,931 3
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) £2,065 4
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) £1,286 5

Further information:

For further information on MPs‘ expenses visit this section of the Parliament website or for an individual breakdown of each MP‘s expenses go to www.theyworkforyou.com.

Parliamentary activity:

Below is a comparison of some of my parliamentary activity with other MPs in the area:

Name Debates spoken in in last year Ranking out of 5
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) 52 1
John Leech (Manchester Withington) 41 2
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) 23 3
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) 18 4
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) 9 5
Name Written Questions answered in last year Ranking out of 5
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) 103 1
John Leech (Manchester Withington) 89 2
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) 30 3
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) 25 4
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) 0 5
Name Votes attended (%) Ranking out of 5
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) 81 1
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) 75 2
John Leech (Manchester Withington) 72 3
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) 71 4=
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) 71 4=
Name No of Constituents’ Messages Replied to within 2 or 3 weeks
John Leech (Manchester Withington) high
Paul Goggins (Wythenshawe and Sale East) high
Gerald Kaufman (Manchester Gorton) high
Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley) medium
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central) medium

* All figures are sourced from the independent website www.theyworkforyou.com and were correct on 18 May 2009.