Justine Greening’s Agent in Addison Lee Fraud Mess

Guido has been leaked details of an internal inquiry into Justine Greening’s former agent and current Wandsworth councillor, Robert Morritt.  The agent for the Wandsworth Conservative Group at the 2010 election stands accused of running a secret Addison Lee taxi account that racked up over £26,000 in journeys between 2008 and 2010. Despite billing thousands monthly over two years, members of the group’s management committee had no idea of the taxi account’s existence and it was hidden in the books. Guido hears that Morritt  developed something of a habit of turning up to management meetings and ordering volunteers to raise more money to cover the costs of impending elections. What he didn’t tell them was that he was spending existing scarce resources on expensive taxis journeys around London. In management accounts seen by Guido there were never any references to taxi fares despite them being top expense items in many months. When the Addison Lee account was eventually  discovered and a deep analysis of the group’s numbers was undertaken, further spending was drawn into question. Guido will be exposing that later…

Morritt denies the allegations despite the fact no record of the taxi account exists in Wandsworth Conservative’s books: “I was amongst other passengers regularly using the company and paid for all personal journeys. In the course of my duties I naturally incurred a number of expenses that have all been satisfactory accounted for. I am not able to add anything further.” For now his new boss Anthony Cole, Chairman of the Wandsworth Conservative Group, is currently standing by him: “There was an Addison Lee account as much travelling was required by Mr Morritt and others. On occasions this was used for Mr Morritt’s personal use and these sums were reimbursed.” Guido has all of the receipts and the vast majority of the £26,000 spent was by Morritt himself. A large number of personal journeys appear, including trips to the airport for holidays and journeys home from nightclubs in the small hours. When this fraction of the bill was paid back is the crucial question…

Morritt was confronted about the account in July 2010 and forced out of his job. On departure he was compelled to reimburse Wandsworth Conservative Group with over £5,000 for his personal journeys. So yes, in a way, he did pay for his own personal journeys, but only after he was caught red-handed. It was only after the existence of the taxi bills was revealed that his personal usage emerged. Original receipts and invoices have seemingly been destroyed. Officially Morritt left on good terms, but Guido has an exchange of letters that says otherwise. There are also frantic emails about the possibility of the truth leaking out to the wider membership and public. This is just the first layer of a much bigger cover up…

Wandsworth group leader Anthony Cole claims that the information Guido put to them “is inaccurate, misleading and full of half-truths. There has not been any ‘deception’, accounts were not ‘doctored’ and all sums have been accounted for.” Perhaps Mr Cole could explain why thousands of pounds every quarter were not included in the accounts then? He can bluster all he wants, but Guido has the books and the spending is not recorded. When Guido attempted to further question Cole’s spokesman, and pointed out that Morritt only repaid after getting busted, no further communication was forthcoming. A Wandsworth source claims: “Its all b****ks. He was ordered to resign and given 24 hours to clear his desk. And the locks were changed behind him.”

What started out with some dodgy taxi numbers goes right up the party machine. There is plenty more to come on this one. You would have expected someone so flagrantly caught out to disappear from the scene, but unfortunately for the Tories, Morritt is not only still a deputy chaiman of Greening’s constituency, he was also elected onto Wandsworth Council in 2010. Hilariously Morritt now represents the Tories’ flagship “careful spending” council for the East Putney ward. Without a hint of irony he sits on their audit committee. To catch a thief eh…

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GuidoFawkes Quote of the Day

Liz Kendall is asked by Tom Newton Dunn if she would ever ban the Sun from one of her press conferences:

“If you stripped naked and ran in front of me, Tom, I might have second thoughts about it, but apart from that, no.”

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