Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stella Faces Parliamentary Standards Investigation
#BiscuitGate Leads to Funding Complaint from Local Opponents 

Following Guido’s story about Stella Creasy’s £31 junk food bill on expenses, the posh Labour MP suggested that the Jammie Dodgers, chocolate fingers and Starburst sweeties were for non-partisan community volunteers in her Walthamstow constituency. It turns out St. Ella wasn’t being entirely truthful…

stella-movement-for-change

Creasy’s #7Days4Stow campaign is advertised on her party website with Labour Party branding, uses Labour Party slogans and is backed by her local Labour Party, the campaign group Movement for Change set up originally by David Miliband – which describes itself as “the home of community organising in the Labour Movement” – is at the centre of Stella’s community volunteering. As if that didn’t make it clear enough that this is a party political operation it is backed by the General Secretary of the Labour Party. After seeing Guido’s report about #Biscuitgate the chairman of the Walthamstow Conservative Association has today written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking her to determine whether taxpayers’ money is being used to support community campaigning at the behest of the Labour Party:

To those who say it isn’t much money, this is just the tip of the iceberg in how political parties abuse taxpayer funding and an important principle is at stake – partisan political campaigning should be paid for out of party funds – not out of funds earmarked for the benefit of all constituents. If only Stella had just ‘fessed up at the beginning and said, “yeah, that probably isn’t a proper use of taxpayers’ money” and straight away paid the money back when it was drawn to her attention she would have avoided a full investigation from the authorities…

Friday, March 14, 2014

Expenses Piggies Told to Pay Back Dodgy Claims

IPSA have forced a trough-full of greedy MPs to repay £40,000 worth of expenses for claims that were in breach of the rules. New figures for October and November last year show 50 MPs were made to pay back cash. Some of the weirder repayments include £1,300 from Jack Straw for a year-long sublet of his constituency office for the Blackburn Labour Party and £1,250 from Vince Cable for subletting his office. Eric Joyce tried to get away with claiming hundreds of pounds for hotels which were not allowed under the IPSA scheme. Cheapskate Jamie Reed was told nine of his £3 claims for petrol would not be granted. Several MPs blew their expenses budget allowance and had to pay back the overspend, including £4,010 from Mike Crockart, £4,551 from Daniel Kawczynski and £933 from Debbie Abrahams. Still, who can blame a greedy expenses trougher for trying…

Monday, March 10, 2014

Stella’s Junk Food Binge on Expenses

Her jealous Labour colleagues call power hungry Stella Creasy “St. Ella”, however when it comes to expenses Stella is no saint. Guido has come across this recent Tesco expenses claim submitted by the Labour MP:

How does she keep her slim figure?

*Artist’s impression.

UPDATE: Stella would like to make clear the snacks were for her volunteers. She has generously invited Guido to Walthamstow for a biscuit. Though the taxpayer will be paying.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Labour MP Claims Thousands for Spinner on Expenses

Andy Burnham’s gaffe prone PPS Debbie Abrahams has a public profile of little note, readers will probably only remember her for the time she repeated loony ‘Dr’ Eoin Clarke’s fibs in the House and was forced to apologise for accusing Cameron of “genocide“. She barely got through last night’s painful Newsnight discussion on benefit sanctions either. You might say she could do with a comms guru to sort out her image.

Guido can reveal that Abrahams charges the taxpayer £2,099 on expenses for the “communications and media” services of “creative media and PR” consultant John Ramsden. Who, judging by the photos on his website, is clearly the real deal. Away from juggling lightbulbs, Ramsden boasts on his site that “I managed to get Debbie Abrahams on to the BBC Today programme yesterday”. So remember the next time you hear Debbie on the radio that you’re paying for the spinner who got her the gig…

Monday, February 10, 2014

Jamie Reed Channels Expenses to Private Health Firm

The delightful Jamie Reed wasted no time getting down and dirty after hearing that Owen Paterson was facing emergency surgery for a detached retina. When Downing Street said they did not know if Paterson had gone private for the op, Reed bleated that the Tories “clearly don’t value (the NHS) and shamefully refuse to use it”. As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun column, that would be the same Jamie Reed who recently charged taxpayers £150 for the services of a private physio company on his expenses. Shamefully refusing to use the NHS?

Friday, January 24, 2014

EXC: Gordon Brown Office Has £10,000-a-Week “Expenses” Raises Over £3 Million, Gives Less Than £1 Million to Charity

  • Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown has £10,000-a-week expenses
  • Not a registered charity, two thirds of funds raised spent on expenses
  • Less than  £1 million given to charity out of over £3 million raised
  • Vanity project lets  Gordon and Sarah enjoy jet-set premier life-style of first class flights and five star hotels

Gordon Brown has since leaving Downing Street 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 - allowing Brown to vainly swan around in Davos like old times. Gordon Brown always insists that 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 Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown is not a registered charity, it is a private limited company. Guido’s investigation reveals – by piecing together some 133 declarations made in Gordon Brown’s parliamentary register of interests – a picture of the until now private accounts since the company was set up by Sarah. Brown has declared to parliament that the total amount paid to the company since 2010 is £3,605,197. According to a recent announcement on the company’s website, only £912,702 has so far been given to charity after three years. Leaving over £2 million to be accounted for when according to the latest available records the company had only £160,978 in cash at the bank. You can see an itemised spreadsheet compiled from Guido’s investigations here.

The company admits it budgets £550,000-a-year for expenses to meet salaries, accommodation costs and staff expenses. Gordon can be paid as much as $100,000 for a single speech in America to investors at finance conferences. By funnelling his speaker fees through the company he does not have to pay tax on the income, even though it covers the £10,000-a-week expenses for Gordon and Sarah to maintain the jet-set premier lifestyle they were accustomed to when in Downing Street, travelling first class around the world and staying in top five star hotels attended to by flunkies. Something Gordon would not be able to do on his backbench MP’s salary…

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gray Area in Double Claiming Tory MP’s Expenses Excuses

Fighting talk from Tory MP James Gray, beaten up in the Mirror and his local paper following Guido’s investigation into his expenses yesterday. Gray has given a denial to another more friendly local outlet which, shockingly, is riddled with untruths. Regarding his publicly-disclosed office at his local Conservative Association, Gray claims:

“I am a local MP and I am part of the local Conservative Party, but in terms of my office it’s not there at all. That’s something I did many years ago. I gave up using the Conservative Party offices and thought it would be better to hire a local office which was totally approved by the authorities. He seems to think I have two offices, which I don’t.”

This is untrue; Gray does have two offices. IPSA have confirmed to Guido that his second Conservative Association office is the only office address and telephone number in the public domain. They say the address and telephone number of his real office – the one he claims for – is kept secret for his own security. Gray’s Association told Guido that he couldn’t contact the real office directly and that he would have to go through them. He says he does not have two offices – he patently does – three if you include his Westminster office.

“It’s a snide instigation that I have a special relationship with the Fuller family. First of all they haven’t made any donations.”

This is untrue. Electoral Commission records show that Fuller, his family and companies have made a grand total of ten donations to Gray and the Tories, totalling over £20,000.

“The only thing I can track down is 13 or 14 years ago when the current landlord’s grandmother donated to my party.”

Electoral Commission records show that this donation was received just over 6 years ago…

Thursday, January 16, 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Tory MP Claims Rent For Same Address Twice
Expenses Money Paid to Family of Donor

James Gray is the Tory MP for North Wiltshire. Readers may remember his crowning career achievement of cheating on his cancer-stricken wife with a married woman.

Now a Guido investigation can reveal that Gray double claims on the rent for his constituency office and constituency accommodation, separately charging the taxpayer thousands of pounds for each despite them being at the same address.

Gray claims £4,800-a-year in expenses for his constituency office rent. His constituency office address listed on the official parliament website, shown above, is that of his local Conservative association. Guido phoned the number given, and indeed the person who answered was sitting in the Tory association office. Yet IPSA records show Gray is claiming constituency office rent expenses for a separate address.

Guido’s investigation has discovered that Gray separately claims both constituency office and accommodation rent expenses for the same Wiltshire address: Ganbrook Farm. He claims a further £13,474-a-year for his accommodation, also charging the taxpayer up to £35,000-a-year to employ his new wife Philippa as his diary secretary on the farm they live in together. Yet if you call his listed constituency office number to book an appointment, the phone rings in a building miles away. Gray therefore appears to be doubling up on his rent expenses for his home and office, a ruse last tried by Denis MacShane.

IPSA rental arrangement files show that the landlord of the property is the “Andrews Settlement”. Guido has learned that the Andrews Settlement is the trust for the Neston Park estate, a large local estate controlled by Sir James Henry Fleetwood Fuller, 4th Baronet. Gray has confirmed that Fuller is the recipient of both his office and accommodation expenses, for the same farm. Electoral Commission data reveals that Fuller and his family have donated £1,250 to Gray through his association, and over £20,000 more to the Conservative Party.

Despite the photo evidence, Gray says that his constituency office and accommodation are “entirely separate” properties with separate leases, merely “adjacent” to each other on the same farm. He insists the arrangement is “open, declared… wholly above board [and] absolutely legitimate and honest”. Despite the publicly-listed address and telephone number for his constituency office being the local Tory association, Gray claims they merely “field very occasional calls and forward the tiny amount of post which arrives there”. However you cannot write to him at his real constituency office – for which we pay – because IPSA told us, it is kept private for the “protection of the MP’s security”.

Gray rather amusingly warned Guido: “you might want to be very cautious how you phrase your story.”


Seen Elsewhere

A Bold Plan to Reform Welfare | Ruth Porter
Clinton’s Busty Mistress Nicknamed ‘Energizer’ | Mail
Photo Analysis of Miliband’s Obama Visit | Buzzfeed
Dave Shouldn’t Have Moved Gove | Michael Howard
Bercow’s Nightmare | Alex Wickham
Miliband Abandons Britain to Meet Obama | Sun
Tequila-Quaffing Chat Show Plonker Clegg | Quentin Letts
Pragmatists v Romantics | Rachel Sylvester
I’m Sorry | Colin Brazier
Blair Was a Gradualist Prime Minister | Janan Ganesh
Why Blair Will Worry Ed | Steve Richards


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Owen Paterson lifts the lid on the Green Blob:

“I received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland.”



Flight Watch says:

Russia Today is a cauldron of bullsh*t. The only people that take it seriously are deluded conspiracy theorists. Other RT journos have resigned citing the same reasons.

It’s about as believable as Press TV, KCNA of North Korea or the Daily Mirror.


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