Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, has agreed to repay more than £11,000 in expenses after saying he made an error in claiming extra accommodation costs for two children who did not “routinely” live with him.
Danczuk said he had made the claims on what he believed at the time to be an accurate interpretation of guidelines from the parliamentary expenses watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
“Regrettably, due to the vague wording of the rules, I inadvertently claimed 10% more than my annual living allowance, money which was paid directly to my landlord in London and not to me. I hold my hands up and admit that this was an error on my part,” the MP said in a statement.
Danczuk was reported to Ipsa by a member of the public in relation to expenses claimed for having his four children stay with him at his second home in London. The MP has two children with his wife, Karen, from whom he is separated, and another two children with his ex-wife, Sonia Rossington.
Danczuk, who was suspended by the Labour party in December last year over separate allegations, claimed the £2,425 a year top-up cash for his two oldest children from April 2012. But he acknowledged that neither of the children had ever stayed at the house while he was making the claims.
The MP moved to a larger London property with higher rental charges in May 2012, before moving again in June 2013 to a slightly cheaper second home.
Ipsa’s compliance officer, Peter Davis, said Danczuk claimed the top-up cash over three years. In his provisional findings, Davis said: “The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his accommodation expenditure budget by claiming dependant uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident.
“The compliance officer must also conclude that this was done knowing that there was no reasonable prospect of the children staying at the accommodation.”
The Ipsa report said that at the time the registration for the older two children was initiated, Danczuk said he was seeing them regularly and he expected the situation to continue. Ipsa said there was no evidence of a breach of rules regarding the younger two children.
“Following the submission of the application for registration his relationship with his first wife deteriorated rapidly, compromising his ability to maintain contact with his older children.
“Initially Mr Danczuk said that his oldest son had stayed with him in his London accommodation but he could not recall how often. However, when asked directly by the compliance officer if his older children ever stayed at his London accommodation, he replied ‘no’.”
The MPs’ handbook states: “A supplement of up to £2,425 a year for each dependant you care for. You will need to certify that the dependant routinely lives with you.” Alongside the £11,583 excess, Danczuk was also found to have wrongly claimed £96.50 in parking charges while on holiday in Spain.
The 49-year-old was suspended by Labour in December for sending lewd texts to a teenage girl, who is said to have approached him seeking work experience. The party is investigating his conduct regarding the messages he sent to Sophena Houlihan when she was 17, for which he has apologised.
Danczuk has played a leading role in the fight to expose historical child sex abuse.
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