Page last updated at 07:26 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 08:26 UK

MLAs' expenses claims total 8m

DUP MLA Gregory Campbell
DUP MLA Gregory Campbell had the lowest claim for expenses

Stormont's 108 assembly members claimed almost £8m in expenses in the past financial year.

Since April they have already claimed more than £2.5m. The highest claimant in 2008-2009 was the SDLP's Pat Ramsey.

His £95,000 claim is understood to have included an £11,000 disability allowance related to a hip replacement.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell had the lowest claim of just under £37,000 followed by party colleagues David Simpson and Peter and Iris Robinson.

On Tuesday, Mr Ramsey said: "Allowances are paid to meet legitimate business expenses incurred by an assembly member in pursuance of his duties.

"I can assure anyone my claims for expenses are totally open, transparent and justified."

MPs tended to be amongst the lowest claimants because their Westminster allowances are expected to cover some of their office costs.

After Mr Ramsey, the MLAs who claimed the most were the UUP's Danny Kennedy, Arlene Foster of the DUP, the UUP's Tom Elliott and Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney.

The highest claimant in the current financial year so far is the SDLP Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie who claimed nearly £39,000 between April and July.

A spokesman for Margaret Ritchie said she did not spend her full allocation on constituency expenses last year and faced "exceptional circumstances" this year when a member of staff became ill.

"She had to employ another member of staff and she still paid the salary of the member of staff who was off sick," the spokesman added.

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane of Sinn Fein was the lowest claimant over the same period with her total of £12,500, apart from Ulster Unionist Danny Kinihan who only became an MLA in June and had claimed just £800 by the time the figures were compiled.

As in previous years, MLAs in border seats tended to be the highest claimants because of their higher travel allowances.



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