Published: 15:30, 11 April 2021
| Updated: 15:35, 11 April 2021
A Kent MP has claimed £26,000 in taxpayers' money to cover rent bills in just eight months, it has been revealed.
The register of Parliamentary expenses shows that, between April and November 2020, Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately has been claiming £3,250 per month towards rent.
As a Conservative parliamentarian and minister for social care, Mrs Whately is paid an annual salary of £113,612. She lives in a £1.35m farmhouse in a village outside Faversham.
Should her monthly claims remain the same, this total figure will reach £39,000 for the year - a sum significantly higher than the national average wage.
MPs are entitled to claim expenses to cover the cost of things such as the running of an office, employing staff, and maintaining a property either in London or their constituency.
A report by the Observer today reveals that between April and November - the most recent month for which figures have been published - Conservative MPs claimed a total of almost £3m in housing rent on expenses.
While no rules have been broken by Mrs Whately or other MPs, the figures claimed will raise eye-brows.
The report names Mrs Whately as the Tory member with the highest monthly claim for rental expenses.
It comes at a time when housing benefits for low earners are being squeezed by the government.
Rates of Local Housing Allowance (LHA), a housing benefit paid to those renting privately, are to be frozen - effectively producing a real-terms cut in cash for recipients.
In Faversham, LHA payments are capped at £1,250 for those living in a four-bedroom property, but the payment can be as low as £341 for those living in shared accommodation.
Housing charity Shelter has previously argued LHA is no longer fit for purpose, and that if rates are not raised to reflect the true cost of renting then there is a risk of more people becoming homeless.
Examination of Mrs Whately's expenses records shows that in the 2020/21 financial year she has also claimed £2,502.73 towards council tax.
A year ago the Faversham MP hit the headlines when she was accused by Piers Morgan of laughing during a Good Morning Britain interview on coronavirus in care homes.
Mrs Whately's office has been approached for comment.