Liberal Democrat candidate for Lewes James MacCleary has called on MP Maria Caulfield to pay back an almost £8,000 ministerial payoff.

The Conservative MP for Lewes received £7,920 in severance pay when she lost her job as a health minister when Liz Truss became Prime Minister.

However, Ms Caulfield was reappointed as a health minister less than two months later after Rishi Sunak entered Number 10.

The payouts are normally made with the expectation that the MP will not be returning to a ministerial position in the near future.

Although there is no obligation to repay the funds, former health secretary Steve Barclay is reported to have repaid the £16,876 he received after being sacked and returning to his job seven weeks later.

Another former health minister, Edward Argar, who resigned in protest at Boris Johnson’s leadership, also opted to return his payout after being appointed to a new role two months later.

The Argus: Maria Caulfield has faced calls to repay almost £8,000 in severance payMaria Caulfield has faced calls to repay almost £8,000 in severance pay (Image: Supplied)

Mr MacCleary called on Ms Caulfield to either return the payment or donate the money to local food banks.

He said: “Although she will no doubt argue that she has not technically broken any rules, I’m sure that many would see this as a real slap in the face when they are struggling to make ends meet as a result of government policy backed by Ms Caulfield. We deserve so much better.

“It is telling that two of her fellow Conservative health ministers felt that it was morally wrong to keep these payments and returned them.

“I talk to local people every week about the struggles they are facing accessing basic NHS services, managing rising costs for food and energy, and feeling anxious about their family’s future.

“Maria Caulfield seems to be less interested in helping them and more interested in helping herself.”

Speaking exclusively to The Argus, Ms Caulfield responded to the calls for her to repay the money and said: “I was paid redundancy when I lost my job as a minister, as is the case for all ministers who are sacked.

“As constituents know, I have always given my annual pay rise to local charities since becoming an MP, the details of which I publish on my website annually.

“I have never taken a penny in personal expenses for travel or accommodation and do not have a second home.”