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Worcestershire pensioners angry over MPs' claims for heating bills
TWO Worcestershire MPs have claimed a total of more than £1,000 in expenses to pay energy bills, with angry pensioners telling them to “stick another jumper on”.
Harriett Baldwin, who represents West Worcestershire, claimed £428 for heating and electricity, while Wyre Forest’s Mark Garnier got £723 back for his utility bills.
The MPs are among 340 who have claimed £200,000 for fuelling their second homes, which has been described as “morally wrong”.
It comes at a time when gas and electricity bills are going up about 10 per cent, with many elderly people saying they face a choice of heating or eating.
Worcester’s Robin Walker and Peter Luff, who represents Mid-Worcestershire, were among 310 other Westminster MPs to claim nothing.
Brian Hunt, vice-chairman of Worcestershire Pensioners Action Group, said: “I am astonished – they know how sensitive this is.
“What really bothers me is, why do this when you know you are likely to get caught out? It’s disgraceful.
“Looking at what they earn, I know I could certainly manage on that money and keep two or three pensioners too.
“It’s not just unwise, it’s greedy. Many old people can’t afford heating this winter, it’s becoming a case of us versus them again.
“I used to go around old people’s houses and one advice in the cold weather was ‘stick another jumper on’ – this would be a good option for them too, wear an extra jumper and don’t make a claim.”
But the outcry has been rejected by MPs, with Mr Garnier calling the criticism “absurd”.
The Conservative, who claimed £723.20 on his London flat, says he has to manage his finances “like anybody else”.
“We had this huge expenses scandal in the last parliament which was nothing to do with me, it was before I came in,” he said.
“You guys in the media said ‘something needs to be done’, IPSA was created (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) and these are the rules we work to.
“The whole thing is completely ridiculous and absurd, it is perfectly legal and there is no point being holier-than-thou about it.
“The bottom line is, lobby IPSA, not us. My claim is for my London flat, it’s keeping it from going damp and if I didn’t do that, I would breach the tenancy agreement.”
Mrs Baldwin, whose claims were for her constituency home in West Worcestershire, said: “I claim on my Worcestershire home as the running costs are lower for the taxpayer.
“MPs live and work in two locations, and if they live outside commuting distance, they can claim up to £20,000 for the additional expenses incurred paying bills for two homes.
“Some stay in a hotel, costing £130 a night. Last year, I claimed £2,866.66 towards the cost of this additional accommodation, of which £428.23 was for heat and electricity.”
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