DWP minister told to repay £1,367 by standards watchdog for breaking expenses rules

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister broke parliamentary expenses rules by allowing his local constituency party to use his office and his printer, a standards watchdog has found.

The report by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which was compiled following a months-long investigation into Pensions Minister Paul Maynard's use of his taxpayer-funded office and printer for party political purposes, found that he had under-reported the use of his office and printer for campaigning purposes - ordering him to repay £1367.

Published today (May 16), the IPSA ruling comes just days after the DWP released its new Fraud Plan which, among other measures, aims to reduce the prevalence of error and fraud in the benefits system. The minister accepted the findings of the report and, after negotiation, agreed to promptly pay back the estimated cost of the use of his printer and office.

READ MORE: DWP spells out exactly who will be looking at benefit claimants' bank accounts

The investigation found that the Blackpool North MP had broken the rules by allowing local campaigners to use his constituency office's state-of-the-art printer to produce "overtly political" literature over many years, while the party supposedly paid for its own paper and ink. He also had an "ad-hoc agreement" to sublet his office, but had "under-reported" its use.

IPSA began their investigation following Sunday Times reporting by Gabriel Pogrund, which found that the minister had claimed more than £100,000 for printing since 2010, but due to "resource constraints" the watchdog was not able to fully audit the use of the printer.

He said on X following the report: "Damning findings do not find wrongdoing over Maynard's extraordinary £106,000 total claims for printing - top of any Tory MP - as "comprehensive audit" impossible due to "resource constraints,"

"But two breaches are clear and admitted by MP, leaving him exposed to referral to standards commissioner."

Ultimately, the watchdog ruled that the issue was caused by the dual use of his constituency office for taxpayer-funded work, as well as political campaigning, which made it "difficult" to comply with expenses rules.

IPSA explained: “However, the compliance officer considers the frequent use of Ipsa-funded office equipment such as the ‘Riso’ printer went beyond the bounds of this agreement, even if some of the costs of use were covered by the local Conservative Association.

“In addition, it is reasonable to assume the constituency office was used for storage and preparation of party-political material at various times which are not accurately reflected in the log of use maintained by the MP’s office.”

In its findings, the report recommended a change in the way offices are used. It stated: "The root cause of this complaint is the use by the MP of his IPSA-funded constituency office for party-political activity.

"Although allowed by the Scheme and despite the MP putting an ad-hoc agreement in place with the IPSA for this purpose, it has clearly been a difficult arrangement for the MP and his staff to manage.

"A clear separation of physical space, assets and resources for party-political activity is preferable and would significantly reduce the risk of these types ofcompliance issues occurring in the future."