CHESTER MP Christine Russell has clarified her financial affairs after The Chronicle queried whether she had over-claimed for rent on her London home.
Details released for all MPs’ expenses, including Ms Russell’s, show she claimed 13 months of rent during a 12 month period in 2007/08.
Ms Russell, who claims £1,100 rent per calendar month, promised to check her paperwork which she has now done.
She said this week: “Your headline in the Chester Chronicle on June 25 asks whether I made a mistake on my parliamentary allowance claim for my second home in London. I did not!
“There may well have been 13 claims for rental in the period April 2007 to March 2008, but the final claim dated 31st March 2008 was for the rent that I had actually paid circa 17th March for April. This claim was therefore in full accordance with the parliamentary Green Book rules.”
Ms Russell felt her “integrity and honesty” had been questioned and this had caused her “a great deal of personal distress”.
She added: “I am meticulous in ensuring that my allowance claims reflect the actual cost of the resources being claimed. Contrary to the inference of your headline, I have no doubt whatsoever that my rental claims were entirely appropriate. Staff from the Department of Resources have never questioned the validity or accuracy of my claims.
“You will also be aware that all claims for MPs’ expenses over the last four years have been fully audited. As a result, a number of MPs have been asked to repay erroneous claims. The auditors did not find any errors in my claims.”
Ms Russell believes she spends about £4,000 a year on non-claimable costs because of her work as an MP including raffle prizes, donations, late night taxis, Christmas cards, business calls from home and coffee mornings.
Ms Russell said she never claims unthinkingly. “I sit back and think am I claiming for this because I am an MP?”
The former city councillor and Deputy Lord Mayor added: “As the new speaker said, most people don’t come to this place because they expect to make financial gain.
“They become MPs because they want to do their best for their local community, particularly the people they represent.
“I see that as my main reason for being in Westminster – to get a better deal for people in Chester either as individuals, families or organisations.”