MP Simon Danczuk to repay £11,000 for wrongly claimed expenses
Rochdale Labour MP Simon Danczuk has agreed to repay more than £11,000 after a watchdog found he claimed extra accommodation expenses for two children who did not stay with him.
Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) compliance officer Peter Davis said Mr Danczuk put in for the top-up cash over three years.
"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," Mr Davis's report said.
"The compliance officer must also conclude that this was done knowing that there was no reasonable prospect of the children staying at the accommodation."
Alongside the £11,583 excess, Mr Danczuk was also found to have wrongly claimed £96.50 in parking charges while on holiday in Spain.
In a statement, the MP said he had acted on what he "believed at the time" to be allowed and hoped Ipsa would review the rules.
"I am relieved that this issue has finally been cleared up and I will, of course, repay the full amount at the earliest opportunity," he said.
Mr 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 accommodation 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.
Mr Davis's report said: "The MP said that at the time the registration for the older two children was initiated he was seeing them regularly and he expected the situation to continue.
"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 MP argued that it was "impractical" to amend the status of his contact with the children with Ipsa whenever it changed and move from larger to smaller flats as the amount he could claim varied.
"Mr Danczuk said that Ipsa's scheme required him to predict when his older children may or may not visit which was not possible," the report said.
Mr Davis took evidence from Mr Danczuk's first wife Sonia Rossington, who said: "In February 2012, their son had contacted Mr Danczuk because he wanted to come to London and he subsequently stayed for one night.
"However, neither child had visited the MP in London since he moved to his larger accommodation. Their daughter had never been to any of his addresses in London."
In his response to Mr Davis, the MP gave an indication of the poor relationship he had with Ms Rossington.
"I would expect her to give you a very unsympathetic view of my relationship with my two oldest children," he said. "However, I maintain that I continually wished for my oldest children to come and stay with me and I always thought that matters could be resolved to a point where they would come and stay."
In his statement Mr Danczuk said he had "inadvertently" breached the rules and suggested they needed to be updated to reflect the realities of "modern family life".
He said: "My accommodation claims were made according to what I believed at the time to be an accurate interpretation of Ipsa's guidelines.
"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.
"Many MPs have told me that they had interpreted the regulations in a similar way and I welcome the suggestion that the regulator is considering a review of the guidelines."