CANDIDATES battling to become Redditch’s MP have clashed over the cost of representing the town.
Peter Jewell, who is hoping to win the seat for UKIP, has pledged to run his office on no more than £130,000 if he won the backing of voters at the next General Election. He has also promised to give away £10,000 of his salary – which following the 2015 poll will increase for MPs from £67,000 to £74,000 – to a charitable Trust he would set up to help those in need in the borough.
The move is an attack on current MP Karen Lumley’s rising expenses. The Standard reported last month how Mrs Lumley claimed almost £188,000 in expenses during 2013/14, up more than more than £17,462.69 on the previous year.
The majority of claims related to staffing which has increased by 81 per cent since Mrs Lumley was elected in 2010 from over £79,027 to more than £143,176.
Mr Jewell said he would look to slash costs by measures including expecting some advisors to act pro bono – either voluntarily or for a reduced fee – would pick up some costs himself and he would spend four days in Redditch doing more and spending less time appearing in photo opportunities.
“Representing Redditch is far more than just running around Westminster trying to climb the greasy political pole.”
But Mrs Lumley hit back insisting she would take no lessons from a party who had spent years abusing the expenses system in the European Parliament while failing to turn up to meetings or vote.
She said it would be impossible to do her job without the support of her staff, while there had been no significant rise in her personal accommodation or travel expenses.
“The insinuation I spend all my time in Westminster trying to climb the greasy political pole is simply laughable given that I have made quite clear I want no other job than representing the people of Redditch, and unlike Mr Jewell I actually live in the constituency.”
Rebecca Blake, Labour’s Parliamentary spokeswoman for Redditch, said if she was unable to refuse the pay rise she would donate the money back to the public purse by asking pensioners she knew to opt out of the winter fuel allowance and she would pay them instead.
She also pledged in the coming days to publish details on her website of her own household income, savings and assets in a bid to be more transparent and help voters understand more about her.
“I commend anyone who gives to charity, however I will not be including my charity giving in my Redditch Labour manifesto. I will be asking people to vote for me as the best person to get a fairer deal for them, the people they care about and for our town as a whole.”