A Labour MP claimed more than £10,000 in expenses for the redecoration of his London flat, which was 11 miles from his main home, before selling it for a profit.
John Austin, the MP for Erith and Thamesmead, made £30,000 on the sale. He then bought a new flat 1.5 miles away, claiming £10,000 in stamp duty and charges and £15,000 on a bathroom, kitchen, carpets and appliances. Mr Austin is retiring at the next election. His claims represent one of the clearest cases of an MP profiting by “flipping” their expenses claims to a new second home.
They also highlight the fact that MPs just outside London can claim as much as those in the Scottish highlands.
In 2005, Mr Austin claimed £9,520 for a new bathroom, £1,900 for repainting and £750 for other repairs at the first flat, in Southwark, south-east London, which was designated as his second home. He also claimed up to £535 per month for the interest on his mortgage.
The MP, a member of the socialist Campaign group, then sold the flat for £140,000 in March 2006. He had bought it for £110,000 three years earlier. He then bought a £225,000 replacement about 1.5 miles away, and designated it as his second home. This allowed him to claim about £10,000 in stamp duty and other charges. The two flats are about 11 miles from his constituency house in Belvedere, Kent, which he designates as his main home.
After moving in to his new flat, Mr Austin informed parliamentary authorities that he would need to increase his mortgage — the interest on which is paid by taxpayers — to fund work on his new flat. Remortgaging is only permitted for essential maintenance work. An official agreed to Mr Austin’s remortgage. He began claiming £760 per month in mortgage interest.