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Offline the leveller

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The MP for Barking defended her expenses claims today after figures showed they exceeded the average in the House of Commons.

Margaret Hodge spent ?151,279, up from ?128,646 last year, compared to around ?137,000 on average in Westminster.

The Labour MP chairs the Commons public accounts committee, which scrutinises government expenditure.

She said: ?We do need resources to support our work ? my office receives more than 100 letters and emails a week from people who need my help.

?The vast majority of my money goes on employing the staff I need to provide a good service.

?MPs are funded by the taxpayer and we have a duty to use that money responsibly ? particularly at a time when our constituents are having to be careful with every penny they spend.

?People should feel they get value for money out of us. I work as hard as possible to make sure that people in the borough feel they get value from the work I do.?

Figures published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority yesterday showed the 650 MPs in Westminster had collectively claimed ?89.4million or ?137,538 per parliamentarian in 2011/12.

Meanwhile Jon Cruddas, the Labour MP Dagenham & Rainham, claimed ?125,134 compared to about ?104,370 last year.

Mr Cruddas said his claims had increased after moving from an office in Church Elm Lane, Dagenham, to a more prominent location in New Road.

He said: ?People want to know where money goes. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has a good system.

?The expenses relate to running a large office in Dagenham, dealing with local residents? concerns.

?We are based on New Road and rent is about ?12,000 a year and the rest of the expenses cover postage, phones, stationary etc.?

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