Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
Updated: Voters call on MP Amess to explain expenses claims
MORE than 90 per cent of voters approached by the Echo in MP David Amess’s constituency are urging him to come clean and explain his expenses claims.
On Wednesday, the Echo challenged Mr Amess on the campaign trail in the wake of revelations he claimed the maximum of £400 for food every month for the past four years.
Since the expenses story broke, the Echo has repeatedly tried to contact Mr Amess, but he has declined to talk to us about the issue.
Mr Amess’s claims for food are part of his second home allowance. For the past four years, he has claimed more than £20,000 a year under the allowance towards the running of his second home.
Yesterday the Echo carried out a poll on the streets of his Southend West constituency.
We asked whether Mr Amess should call a public meeting to tell his constituents why he spent the money and explain the rest of his taxpayer-funded allowances.
Ninety per cent of the 112 people we spoke to said he should.
Five per cent said no and five per cent were undecided.
There was anger on the streets about the revelations and the way Mr Amess and other MPs have conducted themselves.
The elder statesman of Southend politics, former Conservative MP Sir Teddy Taylor, was reluctant to comment on the issue affecting one of his former colleagues.
He said: “In the horrible situation facing MPs now, I feel the best thing is for everyone to be completely open and to not try and hide. I think it would be wrong to say anything further and it is up to the Southend West Conservative Association to look after its own affairs.”
MP avoids questions over expenses by running into hairdressers
MP DAVID Amess ran from the Echo to avoid questions after his expenses showed he claimed the maximum of £400 for food every month for the past four years.
The Tory MP sought refuge in a hairdressers’ as he tried to duck the issue.
He eventually made his escape when a car arrived at the salon in Westcliff and drove him away, with Mr Amess hiding his face behind a leaflet.
The Southend West MP’s extraordinary actions came after it emerged he claimed the maximum £19,000 on expenses for food over the past four years.
The cash is on top of his salary of £64,766.
Mr Amess has refused to answer or return phone calls about the expenses affair, so the Echo tracked him down while he was out canvassing in Westborough ward in Westcliff.
When approached by the Echo, Mr Amess, who had been talking to a constituent in the street, turned on his heel and crossed the road.
As he walked away and was being questioned, he said: “Thank you for the opportunity, but I don’t want to comment.”
Shielded by Southend Tory councillor Jason Luty and a female member of his Westminster office staff and another Conservative member, Mr Amess went into Regency hairdressers’, in Westborough Road, where the woman with the group slammed the door in our face.
He spent half an hour in the salon drinking tea, before a car pulled up and he jumped in to avoid talking to the Echo further.
Staff and a customer at the salon were more willing to talk to the Echo.
They said Mr Amess had explained to them we wanted to talk to him about expenses and he admitted claiming for a second home.
One customer, who did not want to be named, but lives in Milton ward, said: “He should explain himself. Running like that makes it looks worse.
“All the MPs should be exposed for what they are. They get a salary and that should be enough. They should live off of that, like the rest of us do. It’s such a scandal.”
Manager of the salon, Lisa Haggerty, said: “I know Mr Amess and he has helped me out in the past. He’s always very helpful and hard working.
“If the money is for taking people to lunch or tea for constituents when they visit his surgery, that’s fine. If you work for a big firm you get an expenses account and so should MPs.”
But Sylvia Fry, 78, of Glenwood Avenue, Westcliff, said: “I’m rapidly going off him.
“The whole aspect of expenses makes me very cross. It’s not fair. Why should we have to pay for food and not MPs? I understand they must do a certain amount of entertaining, but not that much.
“He should come forward and explain himself.
“Some have definitely abused the system. If they weren’t MPs they would be on trial for it.”
Another pensioner from Westcliff, who didn’t want to be named, added: “I don’t agree with any of it whatever party they are.
“I don’t think they should have expenses.
“They should use a hostel or hotel or commute to London like ordinary people do.
“I’ve always voted Conservative, but now I have my doubts. I just don’t know what to do for the best.”