MP admits claiming for two mortgages

MP Mark Hendrick paid back almost £7,000 after he claimed mortgage interest payments for BOTH his Preston and London homes on his taxpayer-funded expenses.

The Preston MP is likely to be pitched into the centre of a political storm after making the disclosure to the Lancashire Evening Post.

He revealed that between April 2007 and March 2008 he overclaimed 6,850.52 in mortgage interest payments on his second home allowance.

Mr Hendrick had previously been paying two separate mortgages for a flat in Swiss Cottage, London, which he designated his second home, and his main home in Fulwood, Preston.

However, in March 2007 he remortgaged and took out a single loan with a building society for around 320,000 which was secured against his Preston home but covered both of the properties.

A month later he "flipped" his second home designation to his constituency home.

Between April 2007 and March 2008 he claimed a total of 15,324.52 in mortgage interest payments on his expenses.

In July of last year he wrote to the Commons Fees Office to "seek clarification" on his complex arrangement.

However, when the Fees Office examined his previous mortgage payments on the Preston property, it ruled that he had been overpaid and should have only actually claimed 8,474 from the public purse in 2007/2008.

Mr Hendrick then repaid the difference.

The Labour MP said that a letter from the fees office made clear that his method for claiming mortgage interest on expenses was deemed to be "in order" and gave him the greenlight to continue with it.

Mr Hendrick again overclaimed for mortgage interest payments during the last financial year.

Between April 2008 and March 2009 he claimed 5,510 but should have claimed 4,560.83.

The MP, who is currently abroad, has promised to pay back a further 949.17 of taxpayers' money when he returns to Westminster next week.

He told the Evening Post: "The arrangement that I have got was explained in detail to the Fees Office. There has been an exchange of correspondence throughout.

"At the end of each financial year I have always settled up with the Fees Office to ensure that the exact, correct amount of mortgage is paid."

He insists that he now only has one mortgage secured against one home – although he concedes that the loan is to "cover the redemption of both mortgages".

The MP said that both his local party chairman and other Labour figures know about his arrangements.

He said: "I sought clarification on this. I raised it with the Fees Office. No-one pulled me up on this. I took it to them. This was nearly a year before the Daily Telegraph broke the story."

Preston Coun Carl Crompton, who is also the Labour chairman for the party's Preston constituency group said: "He has come clean as far as I am concerned and done the honourable thing.

"The CLP (constituency Labour party) will ask questions if they think there's been intentional misdeeds and will ask Mark questions. He doesn't get an easy ride.

"As an MP in Preston, Mark has worked extremely hard and I can't fault him. We'll come to the next CLP meeting (on Thursday, June 18) when he will be asked to explain this and it will then be up to the members."

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