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MP claims £8,500 in expenses for his children

By Jamie Durent

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Danny Alexander, MP for the Highlands
Danny Alexander, MP for the Highlands

DANNY Alexander, who receives £135,000-a-year for being an Inverness MP and chief secretary to the Treasury, has claimed just over £8500 for travel expenses for his children.

The revelation comes this week as the Westminster Coalition government brought in changes to the welfare system with a cap on the amount of benefits people can receive.

The cap, trialled in four London boroughs, will be rolled out across the country — proposing no out-of-work household should have a benefits income of more that £26,000-a-year (£500 a week for families, £350 for single people), which the government says is the average household income of working families.

Mr Alexander has been able to claim just over £8500 since April 2011 in rail and flight expenses for his dependants, for travel between London and Inverness, according to figures released by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).

He is one of more than nine government ministers and 148 MPs to register their dependants with Ipsa so they can claim such expenses.

He received £5260.99 for 2011/2012 and £3243.97 in 2012/2013 with no expenses yet submitted for this financial year.

MPs also have the right to an extra allowance to rent bigger properties to accommodate their children but Mr Alexander has not claimed on this.

Many MPs argue having two bases means they must be compensated for the costs associated with their children.

Sean Robertson, of the Highlands No To Bedroom Tax campaign, has been quick to criticise Mr Alexander claiming the MP is out of touch with the needs of his constituents.

“He is living in a bubble,” he said. “He has the cheek to claim for travel for his kids at a time when he is taking money from poor people.

“It is outrageous that someone can say that we should be cutting benefits for people on the lowest incomes in the country and themselves be able to claim expenses for their children and a second home.

“There are people whose children have to share rooms, whereas he can claim for a spare house,” he added.

Mr Alexander told The Inverness Courier earlier this month he would turn down the Ipsa recommended increase in MPs’ basic salaries, from £66,000 to a proposed £74,000-a-year, after the 2015 election.

This week the MP said he always strived to make sure his work was “financially prudent” and travel was a necessary expense in doing his job.

“All MPs have an obligation to make sure that public funds are used efficiently and effectively,” he explained.

“That is why I am always looking for the most cost-effective way of ensuring I am able to do the best job possible for my constituents. “Travel to and from London and within the Highlands is vital to doing my job well and Ipsa allows limited travel for family members too.

“All information on parliamentary expenses are available to the public, and it is right that all decisions are taken by a wholly independent body so that people can have full confidence that the system is not open to abuse.”

Highland councillor Ken Gowns (Inverness South), on a wage of just over £16,000 a year, said taxpayers were getting a raw deal funding trips for MPs’ wives and children when they are having their own allowances cut.

“At the end of the day, a lot of people work away from home and do not get that expense, so why should taxpayers fund their travel up and down the country?” he said.

Inverness West councillor Allan Duffy added it was a “kick in the teeth” to Mr Alexander’s constituents and he should be ashamed of claiming the money back.

A Taxpayer Scotland spokesman said MPs’ expenditure was under close scrutiny and taxpayers had every right to feel aggrieved at how their money was being used.

“The benefits of working at Westminster really do stick in your throat,” he added.

What do you think? Email editorial@inverness-courier.co.uk.

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