North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones has been ordered to repay money claimed on his parliamentary expenses.
It follows his attempt to claim the production costs of his Annual Report 2018-19 as well as pay for its postage and distribution through his public credit card.
A letter from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which has been seen by the Gazette, said the claim submitted for the annual report costs had been blocked.
The postage was paid on his IPSA payment car, but IPSA concluded he must cover the cost of the item himself. The letter warned if he did not he could face a formal investigation, but Mr Heaton-Jones said he had agreed to cover the cost of the item.
The issue was raised through North Devon Liberal Democrats by Rod Teasdale, a local election candidate for Instow who received the Annual Report through his door in March.
He contacted IPSA asking if the eight-page full-colour leaflet about Mr Heaton-Jones' activities as an MP had been paid for by public funds and if it breached its code of conduct.
But Mr Heaton-Jones accused the Lib Dems of 'trying to score cheap political points' and said: “The situation is very straightforward. I submitted an application to IPSA to cover the costs of printing and delivering my Annual Report.
“IPSA declined the application, so local Conservatives have paid for it ourselves. That's all. There is nothing else to it.”
Mr Teasdale said: “Getting taxpayers to pay for something illegitimately and then being forced to repay it is an utterly humiliating state of affairs for Peter Heaton-Jones.”
The letter from IPSA's compliance officer said the MPs' scheme for business costs and expenses did not fund newsletters and after consultation with its CEO, it was decided this also extended to annual reports.
It said: 'When I checked the IPSA systems, the claim submitted by the MP for the production of the annual report was awaiting validation and authorisation and so I was able to intervene and block the claim being paid.
'However, the MP had paid for the postage for distribution of the reports with the use of his Procurement Card (credit card supplied by IPSA) and the bill had been settled by IPSA. I have now written to Mr Heaton-Jones and informed him the postage costs claimed on his Procurement Card were an ineligible expense and he must refund the monies to IPSA.'
Mr Heaton-Jones added: “In their letter, IPSA make clear it was not even necessary to have a formal investigation. They told me they 'do not believe there has been any deliberate or intentional action on your part', and even admit that 'perhaps the current guidance in the [expenses] scheme could be clearer'.
“This is another disappointing example of the Lib Dems trying to score cheap political points. Presumably they're hoping it'll hide the fact the previous Lib Dem MP in North Devon claimed on expenses for the cost of driving to a Remembrance Day service.”
Mr Teasdale is standing for election to the Instow ward of North Devon Council against Christine Basil (Green), Madeleine Cooke (Labour) and Selaine Saxby (Conservative).