Council leader defends city MP

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The Labour leader of Lancashire County Council has defended under-fire Preston MP Mark Hendrick, saying that at least he has not had a moat cleaned at taxpayers' expense.

Hazel Harding drew the comparison between Mr Hendrick's expenses claims for a mortgage which covered two homes with former Conservative cabinet minister Douglas Hogg, who included in his expenses claims the cost of having the moat cleared at his country manor.

Coun Harding, who is fighting a rear-guard action to retain Lancashire county council for Labour, said the expenses scandal which has engulfed Parliament is a "sad day for politics".

She said: "I have seen some of the things people have claimed for and that is clearly wrong and that is sad, but to tar everyone with the same brush seems to be misguided."

She added: "As far as I am aware, Mark will not have claimed to have his moat cleaned."

Claims for things like moat cleaning and duck houses were angering voters because they are so removed from "the way that normal people live," she added.

Carl Crompton, chairman of the constituency Labour party in Preston, compared Mr Hendrick's claims with some of the claims made by Tory grandees.

"He has not got a moat or a duck pond in his garden. There are things far worse," he said.

The LEP revealed how Mr Hendrick paid back 6,850.52 of taxpayers' cash he received on his second home allowance for a mortgage covering both his homes in Fulwood and London and claimed 1,500 for a new bed after arguing it stopped him "aching in the morning".

Coun Crompton yesterday said he has no plan to bring forward the next constituency party meetings. The Executive Committee of the Preston Constituency Labour Party will meet on June 11 and the wider party will not meet until June 18.

He insisted that Mr Hendrick discussed his expense claims with his local party before heading off at the beginning of the week-long Parliamentary recess for a holiday in China.

Coun Crompton said: "If you want to take it out on the national politicians, take it out on them at the general election."

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