Tory MP Esther McVey has claimed nearly £9,000 from the public to pay for a personal photographer.
The MP for Tatton – who recently slammed the BBC for their TV licence decision – has come under fire for the extravagant claim.
Data held by the expenses watchdog has revealed that McVey submitted claims worth £8,750 for the services of a photographer and PR man Jonathan Farber over a two-year period, reports the Liverpool Echo.
Farber – who is an ex-Tory councillor in the Tatton constituency – was hired by McVey, according a report published by The Guardian.
A receipt obtained by the newspaper from May 2018, using freedom of information laws, shows that Farber invoiced McVey £750 for five hours’ work for two shoots including “edits, image processing and travel time”.
One of the shoots featured the former Wirral West MP supporting paddle boarders in their fight against plastic waste and another was for a women’s Institute shoot and chat.
The invoice is from “Jonathan Farber photo, video & consultancy”, and states McVey is being billed for “comms consultancy”, adding: “Fixed rate retained professional photo, video and communications services.”
The former Work and Pensions Secretary, like all MPs, takes home a yearly salary of £79,468 and has said she is running in the Tory leadership race in bid to be a ‘public servant.’
In total, Ms McVey claimed £6,000 for Mr Farber’s services in 2018-19 and £2,750 in 2017-18.
In total, McVey has submitted claims for Farber’s services on 13 occasions, the majority of which describe his work as “comms” or “consultancy”.
The Guardian states that all of the claims were approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which said: “Communication is a large part of an MP’s role and they are able to claim professional services to support them carrying out their duties. This could include photography to be used on their website and other digital and print communication channels.”
The paper reported that on his LinkedIn page, Mr Farber says he does “visual communications” for McVey. He was a town councillor in Knutsford from 2015 to May 2019. His website states that he charges £125 an hour for private photography and £175 for “commercial press/PR photography”.
It has been an interesting week for Ms McVey’s campaign.
She has become embroiled in a public row with Lorraine Kelly – her former GMTV colleague.
Earlier in the campaign she caused controversy when she backed parents protesting about the teaching of LGBT relationships in schools.
And yesterday she was accused of talking ‘total rubbish’ by Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan.
In an interview on LBC Ms McVey, who has vowed to slash £7bn from international development spending, said: “We know airports have been built and actually the runways are in the wrong direction because of the winds.
“We know we’ve got that airport where we can’t take off and land because of the winds.”
Asked by host Iain Dale where that airport was, she replied: “It’s in one of the continents abroad.”
Responding on twitter, Mr Duncan said: “The runway in question is in St Helena.
“I was the DfID Minister who built it – completed early, under budget, and despite difficult wind conditions it operates well.
“It fulfils our legal obligations to a UK overseas territory and so is not ‘foreign aid’.”
Asked about her expense claims, Ms McVey told the Guardian: “It is all about constituency matters. Linking and communicating with my nearly 80,000 residents is the job of an MP, and that’s what I do.
“In a modern era you have to reach out and communicate with all ages and I do that by writing letters, organising meetings or visits and through video and photos.
“It’s about raising awareness of key local matters in the constituency such as bus services or plastic pollution and the environment, as you rightly mention, but there are all manner of issues we deal with.
“These issues impact all my residents, youth and community groups, businesses and charities, and I communicate with them all in various ways. This is totally within the Ipsa rules and regulations and has been declared openly.”
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