Monday, March 31, 2014

£9m Bill for Whitehall Life Coaching

The faceless bureaucrats of Her Majesty’s civil service are the people really in charge of the country, so it’s a tad worrying that they’ve been sent on courses such as ‘Economics for Non-Economists’, ‘Enhancing Your Credibility’ and, particularly appropriate for working in this government, ‘Presenting Difficult Messages’. Sir Humphreys can learn how to ‘Be the Leader You Can Be’, not to mention ‘Going the Extra Mile’ and ‘Navigating the Leadership Labyrinth’. Though penny pinching mandarins could surely do without being trained in ‘Using Social Media’ and ‘Diversity and Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Awareness’. If it all doesn’t work out at the end of the day, at least there’s the ‘Getting a New Job’ class to help the men and women in grey suits move on. Obviously the £9 million a year price tag for all this training is on us.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Maria Miller Sells Second Home for £1 Million Profit

how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-maria[1]

Last month Guido revealed that Maria Miller was making a potential six figure profit on the second home – lived in by her parents – that she had claimed mortgage payments for on expenses, in clear breach of expenses rules. The Telegraph today reports she has sold the home which she bought in 1996 for £234,000 for £1.47 million, trousering a taxpayer-subsidised profit of over £1 million. Despite claiming £90,000 for the second home on expenses she will only have to repay £5,000. This was a case of a Cabinet minister blatantly breaching expenses rules, resulting in significant personal gain, yet the impotent Standards Commissioner is giving her a mere slap on the wrist…

UPDATE: A DCMS source gets in touch:

“Maria has co-operated fully with the inquiry, asked for by the Labour Party, which has now been going on for a year and a half amidst constant unfounded speculation. We hope it will conclude soon. It is not surprising that London houses go up in value well over a decade after they are first bought . It is also not unusual for people to move house.”

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WATCH: Rachel Reeves Refuses to Deny Her Welfare Wishlist

Rachel Reeves just repeatedly refused to deny she told a gathering of socialists that “it will be much better if we can say that all of the changes that the Government have introduced we can reverse and all benefits can be universal.”. 

The Labour welfare mask slips.

Mark Harper clearly stood down to spend more time reading the Guido Fawkes Blog ‘which one or two members are familiar with’…

Rachel Reeves’ £230 Billon Slip of the Tongue

Last week Rachel Reeves let her guard down at a meeting of Christians on the Left, formerly known as the Christian Socialist Movement:

‘It will be much better if we can say that all of the changes that the Government have introduced we can reverse and all benefits can be universal.’

Much better? Really? That’s not what the sums say…

Implementing working-age Universal Benefits alone after the next election would cost Rachel £180 billion a year, which is double the benefits bill now. If you then include reversing all of IDS’s savings made in this parliament  - like £2.1 billion to Housing Benefit Reforms (this year alone) or £1.3 billion to Employment and Support Allowance - you’re looking at another £50 billion needed. That takes Rachel’s bill to £230 billion . How can that figure possibly be seen as ‘much better’?

The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary admitting that she’s against the principle of Welfare Reform, but has been forced into it, hardly fills you with confidence about how she would act should she get her hands on the moneybags.  Tomorrow Labour will finally back a welfare cap, something that they have voted against three times before, yet behind closed doors what has actually changed? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Speaker’s Little Helpers: Bercow’s Bill Hits £2m

When John Bercow was elected Speaker in 2009, his campaign team said:

“The Speaker can either be a road block to reform or an agent of reform and change and there’s no doubt about it that John Bercow will be that agent of change.”

After five years in the £142,000 job, the only thing that has changed is the size of Speaker’s bill. Not happy with just his coat of arms, Bercow has grown his team to a nine-strong entourage of helpers at a cost of £383,000 a year. As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun, they include a £42,000 train-bearer whose job it is to carry his ceremonial cloak:

  • Speaker’s Secretary: up to £93,380
  • Assistant Speaker’s Secretary: up to £61,255
  • Chaplain: up to £61,255
  • Trainbearer: up to £42,401
  • Diary Secretary: up to £35,723
  • Personal Secretary: up to £29,330
  • Secretary: up to £29,330
  • Ad hoc Adviser: up to £15,512
  • Cleaner: up to £15,042

Add that to the £37,500 a year on jet-setting around the world and his £8,000 annual expenses bill and Bercow has creamed the taxpayer for more than £2 million since 2010. The ‘agent of reform and change’ is hardly short changed…

Friday, March 21, 2014

Taxpayer Pays Out for MPs’ Employment Tribunals

Readers will know parliament can be a tough place to work, just look at David Ruffley’s temper tantrums or what has been happening during certain ongoing criminal trials (allegedly). New figures reveal there have been at least five separate employment tribunal cases where bag-carriers made complaints against MPs since 2010, with some resulting in the taxpayer forking out for payouts where the staffer has been found to have had a legitimate grievance. However, Commons authorities are refusing to disclose how much has been spent on compensation for the reason that it was agreed in confidence with the MPs concerned. Given it is clearly in the public interest to know how much the public is paying and there is no danger of anyone being identified, that sounds like a cover-up to Guido…

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ministers Blow £230,000 on ‘Cultural Diversity’ Music Gigs

Osborne’s pledge that we’ll be back in the black by 2018/19 raises the obvious question of why it has taken him so much longer than promised to cut the deficit. The Chancellor might want to take a look at DCLG, where ministers have set aside £230,000 for a series of music events aimed at promoting diversity, multiculturalism and community cohesion. The ‘Our Big Gig’ project is spending the money on among other things helping wannabe singers get noticed in Bradford, “bringing together different communities” with a percussion workshop in Tower Hamlets, and the services of MC and poet Lazy Hammock in Westminster. “Artist expenses” for professional musicians are covered by the taxpayer-funded grant.

DCLG tells Guido:

“Ministers have agreed to provide up to £230,000 to Superact, a not for profit arts organisation, to deliver Our Big Gig 2014. The aim of the project is to break down cultural barriers, foster community spirit and create more integrated neighbourhoods by encouraging participation from a diverse range of musical genres and attendance from a wide range of backgrounds.”

Austerity? What austerity?

UPDATE: Sources close to Eric Pickles’ lunchbox:

“It was a Liberal Democrat policy. Welcome to Coalition.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tim Farron Funnels Taxpayer Thousands to LibDems

LibDem president Tim Farron wastes no opportunity to line his party’s coffers with taxpayers’ money. Last year re-renter Farron was one of the guilty men exposed for funnelling parliamentary expenses to his local Westmoreland and Lonsdale party, claiming £6,000 in the last financial year to rent a building owned by his local LibDems and letting them cream off the cash. Now Guido can reveal Farron has recently submitted a £1,554 expense claim for a staffer in his constituency, and guess what, the money was paid to Westmoreland and Lonsdale Liberal Democrats.

Taxpayers are subsidising Farron’s local party to the tune of thousands of pounds a year, with zero checks on whether public money is funding party political activity. It gives him a publicly-funded advantage over any opponent. The LibDems are the most cunning at this and that’s because they are taught how to fiddle centrally – in 2008 they gave a presentation to their MPs urging them to maximise expenses for party benefit.

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

What about releasing the report into her dodgy expenses claims on Budget Day? The Standards and Privileges Committee has taken a very long time to reprimand Miller over those £90,000 second home expenses claims that landed her with a potential six figure profit. A source familiar with the investigation suggests that the delay has been due to gathering more evidence, but why are they taking such a long time to publish a decision? Could it be that Tories on the Committee are looking for a good time to bury bad news? A cynic might think Budget Day might be a good time to get it out…

See also: Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home £90,000 Question For Maria Miller 

IPSA Good Start

IPSA has today announced its latest proposals for reform of the MPs’ expenses scheme. Some of them are not bad ideas, such as publishing MPs’ landlords’ names and addresses each year, publishing details of contingency payments and further scrutiny of MPs’ mortgage interest subsidy and capital gains repayments. Most of these reforms would not be implemented until after the election however. Even then they do not go far enough.

Guido has said it before that a House of Commons debit card is the best way to regulate legitimate expenses. The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. The idea was proposed in Disinfecting Parliament, a 2009 report from the Sunlight Centre that recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector that could easily be transferred to IPSA. MPs have called for a fairer and simpler system, what could be easier than the debit card plan?


Seen Elsewhere

Harriet Harman Offers Less Than the Living Wage | Owen Bennett
Fallon’s Red Arrow Spin Unravels | Wings Over Scotland
What is the LibDems’ Problem With “The Jews” | Speccie
Image is the Least of Ed’s Worries | Speccie
The Most Politically Cynical Speech I Have Ever Seen | Dan Hodges
Full Sunday Sport Style Guide Email | MediaGuido
What if a Hamas Rocket Hit a BA Plane? | Richard Littlejohn
Sunday Sport Swearing Style Guide | Popbitch
Tory MP’s Love of Astrology | BBC
No.10 Shouldn’t Get Excited at Growth Figures | Mark Wallace
Feminist Lobby Killing Meritocracy | Kathy Gyngell


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New Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has big ambitions in his first meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu today:

“I came to bring this conflict to an end.”



Christie Malry @fcablog

Ed Miliband does photo oops, not photo ops


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