Tory MP Slammed By Expenses Watchdog
+ Ordered to Pay Back £1,000 in Incorrect Mileage Claims 
+ Claimed ‘For Twice the Distance Shown on Google Maps’

+ Guilty of “Incorrect” and “Laissez-faire Attitude” to Expenses

Tory MP Bob Blackman has been found guilty of repeatedly over-claiming for his mileage expenses by IPSA and has been ordered to pay back more than £1,000 to the taxpayer. In a damning report released this morning the expenses watchdog found:

  • “on average, your claims are almost twice the distance shown on Google maps and in some cases, significantly more”
  • “mileage claims submitted by Mr Blackman are, in almost every instance, not accurate and greater than the distance travelled”
  • Blackman “wrongly submitted” claims including canvassing and party political events
  • he “demonstrate[s] a pattern of incorrect claiming and a laissez-faire attitude to the submission of constituency mileage in general”

The total number of claims found by IPSA to be incorrect or not allowable is 734 and Blackman has been ordered to repay £1,006.20. If he had been in the private sector he probably wouldn’t have kept his job…

Review of 2014: Gordon Brown’s £10,000-a-Week Expenses

The most shared story on the blog this year was Guido’s investigation into the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown. Since leaving Downing Street, Gordon has raised over £3 million to support charitable projects yet has given less than a £1 million to charity. Nearly three-quarters of the money raised has gone on his office and globe-trotting travel expenses that run at over £10,000-a-week. Despite Gordon claiming he does not profit from the arrangement and that all the income goes either directly to charities or to support other charitable public service projects.

The former Prime Mentalist then got very upset when Guido went on the BBC’s Daily Politics to share the story with a wider audience, demanding that the interview be removed from iPlayer. Guido readers can still watch it here:

All that jet-setting meant the people of Kirkcaldy weren’t seeing much of Gordon, so it will hardly have come as a surprise to them when on another foreign junket McMental admitted he saw himself as an “ex-politician”, despite still taking his £67,000-a-year MP salary.

And so, in December, Gordon finally announced he is making his lack of parliamentary attendance official by quitting at the election. With the old media doing their favourite greatest hits, Guido couldn’t resist his own tribute.

So long then Gordon. We shall miss you.

RED ON RED:
Labour CLP Secretary Quits Over “Sociopath” Candidate

The secretary of Enfield Southgate Constituency Labour Party will sensationally resign tonight, claiming senior local Labour figures believe the party’s own candidate in Enfield North “exhibits all the hallmarks of a sociopath”. In an explosive letter to his chairman seen by Guido, Ben Maloney demands the party take action against come-back seeking, expense cheating, former MP Joan Ryan’s “attempts to undermine democracy in Enfield”, accusing her of being “a cancer at the heart of Enfield Labour Party”. As reported by Guido at the time, Maloney alleges Ryan and fellow Labour candidate Ibrahim Dogus tried to stitch up a selection by “pack[ing] Southgate CLP’s AGM with hordes of questionable “members”, many of which had been recruited by her and Dogus less than 24 hours”. On his way out the door Maloney tells Guido:

“Joan will stop at nothing to get her way politically, and this led to one concerned senior Labour Party figure recently telling me that “Joan exhibits all the hallmarks of a sociopath”. That’s unsurprising given she has a track record of meeting packing that would make Lutfur Rahman and his cronies in Tower Hamlets blush.”

When approached this afternoon, Ryan told Guido: “I have nothing to say”Perhaps Enfield Labour will at its AGM tonight…

Labour Candidate Up Half a Million After Expenses Scandal
Shamed Ex-MP Creams Off Huge Taxpayer-Subsidised Windfall

Labour’s candidate in Enfield North is in line for a taxpayer-subsidised windfall of more than half a million pounds, after ‘doing a Maria Miller’. Joan Ryan, who held the seat until she was booted out in disgrace in 2010, claimed tens of thousands of pounds in mortgage interest payments on her Enfield second home between 2004 and 2008 under her Additional Cost Allowance. She also famously claimed £4,500 doing up the property, including redecorating the living room. The semi-detached Enfield house was bought in 1999 for £249,000. Properties on the same road now typically go for over £750,000, some half-a-million more. The taxpayer subsidised Ryan’s mortgage payments while the price of her home was sky-rocketing, leaving the shamed ex-MP in line to cream the profit.

That’s not all. In 2008, Ryan then flipped her first and second home, designating a flat in Kennington as her new second home. Expenses records show that Ryan went on to claim for second home mortgage interest payments well into 2009. The palatial apartment at Imperial Court was bought for £192,000 in 2004. It is now estimated to be worth over £400,000. Generously subsidised by the people she now hopes will re-elect her…

Business as Usual: Bercow Shreds the Evidence

Ask the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate an MP’s pre-2010 expenses and here is the answer you get:

“All records relating to expenses claims before 2010 have now been destroyed. No unredacted information is now available here…”

A committee headed by the Bercow has authorised the shredding of all the evidence. Another win for the ‘reforming Speaker’.

What happened to the ‘reforming Speaker’ who said in 2009, upon his election:

‘The public perception of the way we operate is so negative that it is necessary to accept a wholesale, fundamental and irrevocable change. There has to be some short-term pain in order to achieve the long-term gain of a recovery in the standing of the Commons.’

It’s business as usual.

Labour Expenses Piggy’s Wikipedia Edited From Parliament

Back in 2012 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed former Labour MP Joan Ryan for deleting references to her expenses scandal shame from her Wikipedia page. She was caught red-handed and ‘fessed up, and details of her flipping her second home were returned to her entry. This week they mysteriously went missing again. 

Wikipedia’s “revisions” analysis shows that yesterday the section “Involvement in the expenses scandal” was removed from Ryan’s page. Curiously, the changes were made anonymously from an IP address located within the Houses of Parliament. This is what the mystery deleter didn’t want you to see:

“In May 2009, it was reported that Ryan had claimed more than £4,500 under the Additional Costs Allowance for work on a house she had designated as her second home. In February 2010, based on an audit report looking into the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, Ryan was asked to repay £5,121 mortgage interest.”

Whoever they are, they certainly seem to have a strong opinion on the subject:

Could an old friend of Joan be trying to clean up her record ahead of her ambitious attempt to stand for parliament again?

H/T @parliamentedits

UPDATE: A parliamentary source gets in touch to report that none other than Joan Ryan visited the Commons yesterday, the day her page was edited from a parliament computer. Curiouser and curiouser…

NOTICE OF INVESTIGATION – BOB BLACKMAN MP

Over the weekend this statement went up on the IPSA website:

The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has today opened an investigation into claims made under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses by Mr Bob Blackman MP.

In accordance with the legislation and the procedures for investigation made thereunder, no further information shall be published until the investigation has been concluded.

Upon conclusion of the investigation, a report including details of the case made against the MP, evidence, findings and any sanctions will be published.

Under new guidelines, investigations into MPs’ expenses are to be kept secret

Help Stop New MPs’ Expenses Cover Up

Quietly announced during the noise of Tory conference were new proposals from the parliamentary expenses watchdog to keep secret the names of MPs facing investigation for fiddling their expenses. IPSA chair Ian Kennedy has decreed that “an MP could suffer unfair reputational damage” if the public knew they were facing an expenses investigation, ruling that the “publication of an allegation” should be prevented. The sinister document claims “public interest in transparency must be balanced with operational needs and fairness”, concluding: “we believe that the operational and reputational damage to MPs which could be caused by the publication of allegations in advance of a substantive investigation outweighs the benefits of release.” This is a flagrant attack on transparency and and clear attempt to cover up and keep secret the names of MPs accused of wrongdoing.

The good news is you can stop it from happening. IPSA has launched a public consultation on the insidious proposals, inviting the thoughts of voters on whether or not they should be allowed to know if their MP is suspected of being a crook. They have already been condemned by Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards and Public Life, as “retrograde, foolish and perverse”. You can read the document here and email a submission to the consultation here

EXCLUSIVE:
Minister Funnels Expenses Cash to Firm Run By Former Agent

Energy minister Amber Rudd has channelled thousands of pounds of taxpayer cash to a Tory-linked company run by her former agent. Over the last two years Rudd has claimed £6,000 on expenses for “professional services” to organise several local jobs […]

+ READ MORE +

The Expenses Claims Parliament Doesn’t Want You to See

Flamboyantly-named IPSA chief Marcial Boo is plotting to shroud MPs’ expenses claims in secrecy once again. Boo has told John Bercow that politicians’ claims for small stationery items should be kept hidden from the public because the delicate flowers are […]

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£173,000 Simmonds Quits Saying Expenses Are Too Low

Mark Simmonds has told the BBC that his decision to quit parliament was due to the “intolerable” impact of expenses rules on his family, saying his allowances don’t allow him to rent a big enough house in London to bring […]

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Bercow’s £1,300 MP Funeral Bill on Expenses

Guido couldn’t help but feel the taxpayer had been short-changed when he read in today’s Sun that John Bercow claimed £1,300 on expenses to go to Paul Goggins’ funeral. A worthwhile trip perhaps, but could he not have done it […]

+ READ MORE +



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Sky News ask a “Labour representative” where the local St George’s Day events are. He replies:

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