Julie Kirkbride paid her sister for constituency work
May 27 2009 By Jonathan Walker
Under-fire Tory MP Julie Kirkbride is facing fresh questions over her use of taxpayers’ money after it emerged she employs her sister even though she lives more than 100 miles from her constituency.
The Bromsgrove MP employs Karen Leadley on a part-time salary of £12,000 to do clerical work for her, despite living in Dorset.
Ms Kirkbride is already under intense scrutiny over her use of allowances after her MP husband Andrew MacKay was forced to stand down as David Cameron’s aide when it emerged he had claimed second home expenses of £23,000 a year on his London address despite not having a property in his Bracknell constituency.
Mr Mackay has announced he will stand down at the next general election, although Ms Kirkbride has not followed his move and insists she has done nothing wrong.
She said the employment of her sister, who works from her home in Wimborne, Dorset, had been registered for some time and she was a popular member of staff.
Ms Kirkbride said: “My sister does work for me on a part-time salary of around £12,000. She lives in Wimborne, Dorset, but she has a computer which is networked to my constituency office and London office.
“She carries out tasks on a regular basis but her principal job is to do constituency correspondence during the parliamentary recess and many people have written to say how helpful she has been.”
It has also emerged that Ms Kirkbride’s brother Ian bought around £1,000 of electrical equipment using her parliamentary office expense account.
Ms Kirkbride said he sourced items on the internet at the cheapest price and they were “entirely in relation to my parliamentary duties”.
Mr Kirkbride, 59, bought a digital camera, five memory cards, four internet routers, three external hard drives, a computer printer, map software and a battery. The items, which totalled £1,000.52, were delivered to him at Ms Kirkbride’s Redditch flat between March 2005 and October 2007.
He works as an IT consultant from the property, which is near her Bromsgrove constituency. She claims he also lives there to help care for her eight-year-old son, Angus.
Almost 1,000 people have joined a campaign to force Bromsgrove MP Julie Kirkbride out of office.
The Julie Must Go! campaign has almost 1,000 members on its Facebook site and plans a rally in Bromsgrove on Sunday - which it has invited Ms Kirkbride to attend.
In a letter to party activists, Ms Kirkbride said she was “devastated by recent events” but blamed House of Commons rules for the controversy.
She said: “We had felt our expenses would not be queried, and that whilst the antiquated system is obviously in need of wholesale reform, we had claimed correctly.
“Clearly, part of our problem is as a married couple where the rules for MPs allowances are not clear.”
She has received the support of her local party chairman, Alan Dent, who said in a message to Conservative Party members: “Never before in Bromsgrove has it been more important for us all to unite behind our MP Julie Kirkbride.
“She is as you all know an extremely compassionate hard working person who has used her talents to assist so many people in our community and for the benefit of Bromsgrove.”
Louise Marnell, chair of the Julie Must Go! campaign, said: “What we want is simple - we want Julie to resign and for an immediate by election.
“If Julie is convinced she has done nothing wrong and still has the support of the majority of her constituents, then let the people decide.”
After the public rally, campaigners will present the petition to the offices of the Bromsgrove Conservative Association on June 1.