Wearside and Durham MPs claim more than £168,000 expenses

Bridget Phillipson and, below, Julie Elliott and Grahame Morris.

Bridget Phillipson and, below, Julie Elliott and Grahame Morris.

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WEARSIDE and East Durham MPs have claimed more than £168,000 in expenses in six months, new figures show.

The seven men and women representing the area submitted hundreds of claims between April and September last year.

Julie Elliott new Labour Party MP for Sunderland Central.

Julie Elliott new Labour Party MP for Sunderland Central.

But gone are bills for home improvements and luxuries, with MPs restricting themselves to travel, accommodation, food and office costs.

Some MPs have, however, attracted criticism from the Taxpayers’ Alliance for failing to get the best deal on rail tickets, and travelling first-class.

MPs who rent their second homes rather than claim mortgage repayments, as will be compulsory under new rules, tend to rack up higher expenses bills due to steep London rents.

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson claimed about £36,000, including second-home rent payments of £1,860, 14 £255 first-class rail tickets, and a number of £119.70 mileage claims to London.

Grahame Morris MP.

Grahame Morris MP.

She also claimed three sets of £750 “staffing costs” for “community engagement and consultation”.

Ms Phillipson said: “My claims have all been approved under much stricter rules. We now have an independent body that scrutinises every individual claim.

“I receive no financial benefit merely reimbursement of payments I have already made. This covers office costs, staff salaries and the cost of travel to and from London. My constituents deserve an active and busy office and I always strive to keep costs as low as possible.

“I believe in having regular contact with constituents and local businesses at every opportunity and this can only be achieved by travelling up and down from Westminster.

“I book tickets in advance whenever I can, but this is not always possible due to Parliamentary commitments.”

Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson claimed £26,882, ranging from 60p for a cup of tea to £1,475 for rent on her second home, with other claims including 14 £255 rail tickets.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott expenses bill was among the leanest at £16,205, including £1,100 rent payments for her second home and short-distance mileage claims.

Easington MP Grahame Morris claimed £22,503, including rent payments of £1,450 on his second home, several £248 mileage claims to London and four rail tickets of about £100 each.

Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who represents Whitburn as part of his South Shields seat, had one of the lowest expenses bills in the North East at £10,357.

His claims include £210 mortgage interest payments on his second home, £1,500 constituency office rent and claims for travel to London – including a £263 business-class plane ticket.

Stephen Hepburn, who represents the Boldons as part of his Jarrow constituency, claimed £18,731, including rent payments of £1,516 on his second home and £837 on his constituency office.

His travel costs include 13 first-class rail tickets at £255 each at a total of more than £3,300.

City of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods claimed £23,631, including mileage claims, train travel and office costs.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones claimed £47,469, including second home rent payments of £1,365, office costs, food and drink and vehicle mileage.

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