ALAN MILBURN blamed “careless administration” last night, after it was revealed he had repaid more than £11,000 of wrongly-claimed expenses.

The Darlington MP said he was deeply embarrassed after a five-year audit uncovered overpayments on mortgage interest, council tax and service charges on his London second home.

The verdict, delivered months before the General Election, when Mr Milburn will stand down, left the former Cabinet minister facing the biggest repayment of any MP in the region.

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It came as auditor Sir Thomas Legg condemned the “culture of deference” in the Commons fees office that meant officials failed to challenge claims under the £24,000-a-year taxpayer-funded second home allowance (ACA).

In total, 384 MPs were ordered to repay £1.12m – a figure cut from £1.3m after appeals – of which about £500,000 is still outstanding.

Meanwhile, the Crown Prosecution Service will announce today whether fraud and false accounting charges will be brought against six MPs and peers. The offences carry jail terms of up to ten years.

Most of Mr Milburn’s fees were because of overpayments on mortgage interest (£10,107.16), followed by council tax (£1,360) and a twicepaid service charge (£133.34).

In a statement, the MP said he issued a cheque as soon as he discovered the errors after being asked to provide mortgage interest statements last October.

He said: “Careless administration on my part meant I failed to take proper account of changes in interest rates and capital repayments made to the mortgage in making my claims.

“I had always made my claims in the belief they were wholly accurate.

“At no point had I, or for that matter the fees office, realised there were any mistakes.

“As soon as I discovered the errors I wrote to Sir Thomas to alert him to them.

“They were genuine errors for which I am wholly responsible.

I am deeply embarrassed and sorry for them.”

The council tax overpayment was caused by claiming 12 months of direct debit payments, when payments were made over ten months – a mistake spotted by Sir Thomas.

The long-awaited audit, which condemned the allowances system as deeply flawed, ordered 18 present and former MPs in the North-East and North Yorkshire to refund a total of £27,413.42.

Expenses were wrongly claimed for everything from excessive gardening and cleaning bills to advice on second home renovations, garden plants and a sofa and chair costing £2,650.

Three MPs in the region – Vera Baird (Redcar), Frank Cook (Stockton North) and Chris Mullin (Sunderland South) – were among 44 who wiped out, or reduced, their repayments after launching appeals.

Most MPs have already refunded the fees office, but Minister for the North-East Nick Brown was recorded as still owing £697.65 for cleaning costs, which must be repaid by February 22 or his pay will be docked.

After Mr Milburn, the next biggest paybacks were by Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough, £5,363.74), David Curry (Skipton and Ripon, £1,676.48) and Mr Cook (£1,019.30).

Mr Kumar was ordered to repay £450 of his total claim for a sofa (£1,700) and chair (£950), which “exceeded the guideline price”.

Sir Thomas said: “The ACA system was deeply flawed. In particular, the rules were vague and MPs were themselves self-certifying as to the propriety of their use of the allowance.”

The “Legg list” confirmed that all three party leaders have made repayments – Gordon Brown (£13,723.04) David Cameron (£965.45) and Nick Clegg (£989.50).

The biggest repayment was by Culture Minister Barbara Follett (£42,458), while the biggest winner was former Tory minister Peter Lilley, whose £41,000 repayment was reduced to zero on appeal.

But the scandal is not over.

Thirteen MPs are still appealing against Sir Thomas’ conclusions, including Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who must repay £24,878.27.