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…

Outgoing MPs Claim For New Laptops and iPads on Expenses
… And They Don’t Have to Give Them Back When They Leave

Shameless MPs standing down at the election are rinsing the taxpayer for brand new laptops and iPads on expenses before they leave parliament… and they DON’T have to give them back.

Two weeks after Andrew Lansley announced he would quit the Commons he claimed £499 for a new iPad, but the rules mean he can keep it when he leaves in May. Eric Joyce confirmed he would quit when Labour told him he was “unfit to stand” back in 2012. Yet last June he claimed £1,777 for “replacement laptops” on expenses, which he is allowed to keep when he goes this year.

Six months after Tim Yeo was booted out by his local Tories last February, he then charged the taxpayer £1,319 on expenses for two new computers. John Denham revealed way back in 2011 that he would be leaving at the election, yet that didn’t stop him from claiming £639 on expenses for a new tablet computer in April 2014. Sacked Energy minister Charles Hendry announced he would stand down from his seat when he lost the role back in 2013. Yet in September last year, eight months before he was set to leave, he claimed £1,024 for a new Latitude laptop.

In July last year Tory MP Mike Weatherley revealed he would not stand for re-election, and two months later he claimed for an £849 Microsoft Surface Pro touch-screen laptop. Tory MP Jonathan Evans announced he was quitting in 2013, yet in August 2014 he claimed £572 for a new Dell laptop, and then another £479 for an iPad Air the following month. In 2011 Tory James Arbuthnot revealed his intention to leave, but still charged us £594 for a new iPad Mini and case last summer.

In the last six months eleven other MPs also claimed laptops and tablets on expenses, including Labour’s Tom Watson – who claimed for two – Siobhain McDonagh, Michael McCann, Huw Irranca-Davies, Roberta Blackman-Woods and Fabian Hamilton, and Tories Theresa Villiers, Nick Hurd, Keith Simpson, Glyn Davies and Tobias Ellwood.

IPSA tell Guido: “we advise MPs who are standing down to pass them on to their successors but we cannot compel them to do so”. Fill your boots…

What the Helic? SpAd Bill Soars to £8.4 Million
+ + + No. 10 Stuffed with 27 Special Advisers to the PM + + +

£8.4 million of taxpayer cash was spent on 103 SpAds in the last year, a 17% rise on the year before.

Chasing headlines in 2010, Cameron made a big deal of cutting the number of SpAds from 82 to 61. He now personally has 27. Twenty-f**king-seven spin doctors, bag carriers and wonky strategists. No. 10 now has almost half the number of SpAds as served the entire government just five years ago.

Nick Clegg now has twenty special advisers. Nearly double the amount that Jesus got by with.

Why does Esther McVey need a Special Adviser beyond a reshuffle consolation prize, and why is she paid more than dozens of others on the list who report to real cabinet ministers?

Why does the Chief Whip have three advisers at a cost of around £150,000? What are they doing – because there’s no real legislation going through the House?

And finally, Guido cannot fathom why, in his new role as Leader of the House, William Hague still needs three SpAds costing us almost £200,000. Bizarrely Arminka Helic is retained as his adviser on £70,000-a-year, despite recently being ennobled and therefore allowed to claim a £300-a-day allowance in the House of Lords.

What a bloody racket.

UPDATE: Hard to disagree with Angela Eagle:

“Another day, another broken promise from David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

“David Cameron promised to get the cost of politics down but under him the number of Special Advisers spirals ever upwards – the public are now picking up bill of over £8m to pay for his appointees.

“This also shows how you can’t trust a word Nick Clegg says. The Lib Dems used to say that Special Advisers shouldn’t be paid for by the public but as soon as he got his feet under the Cabinet table he broke his word. The cost to the public of Lib Dem Special Advisers is over £1.7million – Nick Clegg alone has more advisers working for him than he has female MPs.”

UPDATE II:

Bumper Boozy End of Term Blowout for MPs Tonight

It’s going to be a late sitting tonight on tedious end of term legislation – which means a bumper night for parliament’s bars:

From: Government Whips Admin Unit (HOC)
Sent: 15 December 2014 13:19
Subject: Todays Business

Given 2 UQs and the 90 minute statutory instrument as the first business, there is now a very good chance of sitting beyond midnight tonight, although unlikely later than 1am.

And given the late hour of the sitting MPs will get a free taxi home on the taxpayer after a night of solid subsidised drinking… Happy Christmas!

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…

Snouts In The Trough

  • Tian of crab, king prawns with keta caviar and crème fraiche.
  • Elderflower sorbet drizzled with Champagne.
  • Herb crusted rack of Elwy lamb, butterbean purée

[…]

+ READ MORE +

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 […]

+ READ MORE +

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 +

MPs Want 10% Pay Rise for Themselves, 1% for Public Sector

Yesterday Marcial Boo, the new boss of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), declared that the pay of MPs should go up by a massive 10%, taking their basic salaries to £74,000 a year, around three times average earnings. To […]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Former Miliband guru Arnie Graf reveals Labour’s disconnect with the working class:

“On one of my trips to the U.K. in the autumn of 2013, I bumped into one of Ed’s strategists in Portcullis House. He asked me if I was assisting the staff on Ed’s trip that was to take place in a few days to one of the regions. I told him that I did not have knowledge of his planned trip.

He told me that Ed was going to give a talk at the region’s annual fund raising dinner and that prior to the dinner he had invited the media to join him at a local coffee shop to listen to a conversation he planned to have with a minimum wage worker. The point of the conversation was to show how difficult it was for a minimum wage worker to get on in life.

There was only one problem. No one had been able to locate a minimum wage worker for Ed to talk with.”

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