Bercow’s £172 Expenses Bill to Drive 0.7 Miles

MPs have been getting it in the neck this week for 9p mileage claims, but this is something to really get peeved about. Some top digging by Press Association has found John Bercow billed the taxpayer £172 to be chauffeur-driven to a conference at Carlton House Terrace, just 0.7 miles from parliament. And that’s not all:

  • Bercow used an official car to travel to Canterbury to see Justin Welby enthroned in 2013 – at a cost of £524
  • He travelled 1.5 miles to dinner at the Dorchester Hotel, billing £144
  • Somehow managed to blow £168 travelling from King’s Cross to Speaker’s House
  • Billed £367 to be driven to the University of Bedfordshire, where he gave a lecture on reforming parliament and warn about the consequences of the expenses scandal
  • Kept a chauffeur-driven car waiting while he attended a memorial service for Malcolm Wicks in Croydon, costing £289 for five hours

He is the “reforming Speaker”…

Guilty Men: MPs Who Backed Pay Rise Named and Shamed

IPSA has revealed the roll call of shame of MPs who begged for more cash in the pay rise consultation. Only four had the balls to go on the record:

“I know I speak for the silent majority (who are not millionaires) to say this increase is well overdue… I hope common sense will prevail and this pay rise will be honoured.” Tobias Ellwood MP

“I am supporting IPSA’s recommendations as they have been done independently of Members.” Keith Vaz MP

“IPSA… must work totally free from government influence.” Mark Field MP 

“In my view IPSA was established precisely to take away the responsibility of this sort of decision from the hands of MPs… MPs were traditionally unpaid. And parliament predicted when salaries were introduced that it would be a source of continual public disappointment and anger, as it has been… My fundamental conclusion is that an independent body such as IPSA is now and should be in the future the appropriate body to make recommendations – not MPs themselves. I believe IPSA has conducted serious research and comparisons. I believe they are in a better position than MPs to be objective. I would accept their recommendation.” Rory Stewart MP

At least they had the nerve to stick their necks out, unlike the silent majority who quietly accepted the rise…

Confirmed: Troughing MPs Will Land Bumper Pay Rise

“MPs’ pay will rise to £74,000 as part of a package of changes to their remuneration,” IPSA confirm this morning: “The pay rise will be backdated to 8 May 2015″. 

The expenses watchdog are spinning that this is a good deal for the taxpayer because the new rules mean MPs “can no longer claim for the costs of hospitality, evening meals, taxis home from Westminster when working late”, and the scandal of resettlement payments has been ended. That hardly makes up for the public sector pay cap-busting 10% hike.

Here is IPSA chief Ian Kennedy:

“Parliament gave IPSA the power to deal with the vexed issue of MPs’ pay – independent of Parliament and Government.  Pay has been an issue which has been ducked for decades, with independent reports and recommendations from experts ignored, and MPs’ salaries supplemented by an opaque and discredited system of allowances.

“We have made the necessary break with the past.  We have created a new and transparent scheme of business costs and expenses, introduced a less generous pension scheme, where taxpayers contribute less and MPs make a higher contribution, and scrapped large resettlement payments.   We have consulted extensively on MPs’ pay, and with today’s decision we have put in place the final element of the package for the new Parliament.

“In making this decision we are very aware of the strongly held views of many members of the public and by some MPs themselves. We have listened to those views. We have made an important change to the way in which pay will be adjusted annually. Instead of linking MPs’ pay to wages in the whole economy, it will be linked to public sector pay.

“Over the last Parliament, MPs’ pay increased by 2%, compared to 5% in the public sector and 10% in the whole economy. It is right that we make this one-off increase and then formally link MPs’ pay to public sector pay.”

Celebratory subsidised drinks on the terrace later?

Tight Tory’s £4.50 Remembrance Expenses Shocker

Earlier this year, Guido revealed Labour MP Sarah Champion’s £17 expenses claim for a poppy wreath.

Then top Miliband aide John Cruddas was caught putting funeral flowers on the taxpayers’ tab.

Now the Tories are at it too.

Wealthy Stephen Hammond rakes in £67,000 a year as the MP for Wimbledon. He also owns a luxury £500,000 second home in Portugal, complete with a swimming pool.

That didn’t stop the rotund miser from filing a £4.50 expenses claim on Remembrance Sunday last year for “mileage” to drive, in his own car, to “two Remembrance services” within his constituency.

This is what greedy Hammond said about MPs’ pay in the last parliament:

“An MP salary should be linked to a public sector job of similar responsibility such as a GP. Official figures I have been shown put the average salary for a GP at over £105,000.”

At least then maybe he’d be able to find the cash to honour our heroes from his own pocket.

IDS Should Face Benefit Sanctions

welfare

Awkward, via PA:

Iain Duncan Smith had his official credit card suspended after running up more than £1,000 in expenses debts, it can be revealed.

The Work and Pensions Secretary was among more a dozen MPs subject to action by the Commons watchdog after failing to show spending was valid.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) issues MPs with credit cards for to pay for items such as travel and accommodation.

The politicians then have to prove the spending was genuine by the end of the month, or they build up debts to the watchdog.

What would the DWP have to say about such a flagrant breach of the rules?

  • 3 categories of sanction – ‘higher’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘lower’ – depending on the nature of the offence

Seems pretty serious: Higher.

  • different levels of sanction for first, second and third offences

Hardly the first time that the words ‘IDS’ and ‘expenses’ have been heard in the same sentence…

Certainly a case for suspending hand outs.

UPDATE: Team IDS get in touch:

“Iain has not had his card suspended. IPSA have confirmed twice in writing that this issue was an error on their part. To be clear no money is owed”

Yet IPSA still insist the credit card was switched off and that they stand by their original claim entirely. So who’s telling the truth?

New MP Puts Secretary He’s Shagging on Highest Pay Grade

Yesterday Guido revealed the roll call of shame of new MPs boarding the gravy train by giving cushy jobs to family members.

Most impressive of the bunch is Gerald Jones, top left, the new Labour Honourable Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney.

Gerald is not even two months into the job and he has already found his new Senior Parliamentary Assistant: his partner, Tyrone Powell, top right.

That job title means lucky Tyrone goes straight into the highest pay grade available, potentially taking home £43,272 of taxpayer cash a year.

He must have plenty of parliamentary experience…

Andy Burnham: Rent-Swapper

Stories in the Sunday papers about Andy Burnham’s expenses will have rung a bell for Guido readers. During the height of the rent-swapping scandal in 2012, this site reported on how:

“[Burnham is] letting out a London home while renting another property in the capital at the taxpayers’ expense… taking public money to subsidise living in his London flat while renting out another London property at the same time”

Burnham is claiming £17,000 a year on expenses to rent a flat in London, despite owning another property nearby which he rents out for around £18,000.

The taxpayer is subsidising his property portfolio…

CARSWELL FIGHTING UKIP HQ OVER £650,000 SHORT MONEY

Douglas-Carswell-with-Nig-012

Right now everyone in Westminster is amused by the “unresignation” of Nigel Farage – or what the rest of us would call a “weekend off”. That is a done deal. What is not a done deal is the massive internal row between Nigel Farage’s allies in UKIP HQ and Douglas Carswell, UKIP’s only MP, over the control of the £650,000 of Short Money due to them as an opposition party after winning 4 million votes.

Douglas only learnt that Nige had unresigned in Central Lobby when a passing journalist from The Times, Laura Pitel, showed him a tweet on her mobile phone. Fair to say this did not go down well. 

Carswell subsequently emailed UKIP’s top brass insisting on two things; firstly that UKIP in parliament does not need £650,000 of taxpayers’ money to run a parliamentary operation and that he should chair an oversight board that will control the spending of the money. It is fair to say that in the past UKIP’s expense accounting has been almost as bad as that of the European Commission. Douglas tells Guido that

“I don’t think we need a vast amount of taxpayers’ money to do the job. We should be different, we should be prepared to reject taxpayer funding. We don’t need to be on the gravy train to fund staff. UKIP should be about saying no to the political trough. Not taking our fill.”

Short Money is intended to help fund a parliamentary opposition that doesn’t have the benefit of the Civil Service, specifically

  • Funding to assist an opposition party in carrying out its Parliamentary business
  • Funding for the opposition parties’ travel and associated expenses
  • Funding for the running costs of the Leader of the Opposition’s office

Carswell is suggesting that they accept only £350,000 from the taxpayer for the UKIP parliamentary operation. If Carswell is going to sign off the accounts he is insisting he wants to be a signatory to the bank account…

UKIP is “negotiating” the matter with their only MP and a ‘negotiator’ tells Guido:

“UKIP are looking for a way to spend this money for the betterment of our 4 million voters.”

Sources suggest there could also be “an alternative plan B” with another parliamentarian taking the cash.  Carswell says of the suggestion he might be lured back to the Conservatives: “I’m 100% UKIP, and right now I’m 100% of UKIP in Westminster”.

UPDATE: Nigel Farage tells Guido:

“Douglas is the MP for 4 million people and we need to represent them properly.”

Sleazy Labour Candidate Claims Tory Win Will Lead to Suicides

Labour’s grubby candidate for Hendon, the slime-ball former MP Andrew Dismore, has declared vote Labour, or more people will die:

“The graph below shows what has happened to suicide rates in the UK since the Coalition came to power. It

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Court Rules Public Can See MPs’ Expenses Receipts

IPSA will have to release copies of MPs’ expenses receipts after failing in an attempt at the Court of Appeal to shield them from the public eye. Currently the expenses watchdog only has to release a brief summary of what […]

+ READ MORE +

Rent Your Flat To an MP, If You Dare

Nice to see the mansions of SW1 getting a look in – this letter has been posted to flat owners near Westminster – but surely this has to be the biggest fib of the election? MPs will be “good quality, […]

+ READ MORE +

UKIP Tell Atkinson to Lawyer Up

IMG_2157

Guido hears that suspended MEP Janice Atkinson was told by UKIP’s legal team this morning that there was nothing they could do for her and that she had better get criminal representation very quickly. Apparently Section 6 of the 2006 […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Ken Clarke tells the Ben Fellows trial:

“The idea that I would go strolling off in order to grope a man in an office is highly unlikely.”

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