Croydon MP defends second home claim despite owning two other properties
by Neil Millard
DEFENDING HIMSELF: Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway
Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway has defended claiming second home expenses for a house in Surrey - despite owning two London flats.
Last week the Advertiser told how Mr Ottaway claimed £21,481 towards a second home in just one year, despite his constituency being just 12 miles from Westminster.
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At the time he would not comment on his claims, but after being fiercely criticised by Advertiser readers this week has decided to speak out.
And he has admitted he owns a third property on top of the two he uses for Parliamentary purposes.
But he says it is a private investment shared with his wife and should not have any bearing on his second home allowance.
He registers his house in Bletchingley as his second home because he says he spends most of his time in Westminster.
Green Book rules on expenses say there should be "no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money".
That includes the way MPs use the Additional Costs Allowance, known as the second home allowance.
Mr Ottaway defended his ACA claims even though both London flats are "within striking range of Parliament".
This would mean they would only be a little further away from his Croydon south office than his home in Bletchingley, which is nine miles from his constituency base.
Talking about the third home, he said: "If I choose to invest some of my money into property, why should I choose for that income to be offset against an allowance?"
Asked where the third property was, he replied: "These are personal details.
"My main home is in Westminster. You can mind your own business about the second one. It's nothing to do with it at all.
"It's a private investment I share with my wife."
He assured his constituents he had never re-mortgaged any home to earn interest from a lump sum while claiming for interest payments under the ACA.
As the expsenses debacle continued to ravage Parliament's reputation this week, Mr Ottaway said the growing controversy over the ACA led him to pay off the mortgage on his Surrey home.
"I got so fed up with this lot 18 months ago I paid it off," he said.
As a result he says when his ACA claims for 2008/09 are published they will show they "suddenly dipped" over the last financial year.
The Commons authorities plan to release details of all MPs expenses by mid-July.
But in the meantime Mr Ottaway is backing away from the controversial system pending an official Parliamentary report.
Mr Ottaway added: "I decided that from May 1 this year, until the Kelly Committee reports its findings I will be making no further claims on the ACA."
Mr Ottaway claimed the most in expenses of any Croydon MP according to figures for the year ending March 2008.
He claimed £21,481 in ACA, £15,484 to run his office, £87,151 on staffing and £2,915 on travel. In total he claimed £145,373 for the year.