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?

Labour Demand Answers Over Conflicted No. 10 Trade Envoy

Following Guido’s story about the PM’s trade envoy to Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan Charles Hendry taking a job with an oil company working in those two countries, Labour MP Sheila Gilmore has tabled two written questions to the Prime Minister demanding answers:

To ask the Prime Minister, whether the appointments of the hon. Member for Wealden as a) a consultant to Vitol Group and b) a Senior Adviser to Atlantic Supergrid Corporation Ltd were considered by the Advisory Committee on Business appointments, and whether any conditions were imposed by the Advisory Committee on either appointment.

To ask the Prime Minister, whether he considers there is any conflict of interest between the hon. Member for Wealden’s position as the Trade Envoy to Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and his paid employment as a consultant to Vitol Group.

Guido predicts Hendry will say his work with Vitol has nothing to do with Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Though given two of its main oil production interests are in two of the countries Hendry is trade envoy to, there are serious doubts about whether he can continue to do his government job without a conflict of interest arising. Is Hendry asking us to believe his role as trade envoy was not considered at all by Vitol when they decided to part with £60,000 for him to do 18 days’ work?

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…

Government Trade Envoy’s £60,000 Conflict of Interest Charles Hendry’s Oil Job Linked to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan

Tory MP Charles Hendry has been a busy coining it since he was sacked as Energy minister, landing a £48,000 windfall from wind energy giants Forewind and hobnobbing with Hanover lobbyists and Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. On top of that, Hendry has now bagged another outside job as a consultant at oil giants Vitol. He will be paid £60,000-a-year for eighteen days’ work, taking his outside earnings over £100,000.

Vitol is a $300 billion energy trading company which runs oil exploration projects in corrupt, authoritarian countries such as Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Guido is sure it is nothing more than coincidence, but Hendry is also the president of the advisory board of the Russo-British chamber of commerce and is the Prime Minister’s trade envoy to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Hendry is standing down in 2015, but not before he trousers one last big payday…

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…

A Bottle a Day at the BMA Keeps the Health Secretary Away

Doctors’ trade union the BMA has been getting very upset about “cuts” to the NHS recently, moaning to the government that funding changes could force GP practices to close. One thing in particular they don’t want to cut is their very own in-house wine list, which offers posh plonk such as a £52 Pol Roger advertised as “Winston Churchill’s favourite champagne”.

Cheers!

TfL Spends £250,000 on Twitter Followers and Facebook Likes

Figures obtained by Guido reveal that Transport for London has spent over a quarter of a million pounds on boosting its Twitter followers and Facebook likes. TfL has a grand total of 26 Twitter feeds and two Facebook pages. Since 2012 it has spent £254,322 on paying for “promotion” – so their tweets and statuses appear in Londoners’ timelines – with the aim of getting them more followers and likes. TfL defend the spending by saying that in the last year their overall social media following has increased by one million as a result. What would Bob Crow have said?

Yet Another Dodgy Labour Selection Keith Vaz ‘Trying to Overturn Result in Favour of Friend’

Strange goings on down in Enfield Southgate, where Labour have chosen Bambos Charalambous over Ibrahim Dogus in a fiercely contested battle for the selection. Labour sources on the ground tell Guido that Dogus is furious at the result and is throwing around claims that there were voting irregularities concerning postal voting. Guido is told that Keith Vaz is leaning on the national party to look into the result. Surely nothing to do with Vaz being a long term friend of Dogus and being his main endorser during the selection. Or the fact that Dogus has been doing the legwork for Vaz’s £1,000-a-ticket Labour Sports Dinner, the party’s annual flagship fundraising event which brings in thousands in donations. In an email seen by Guido, Vaz even let slip that one of the main reasons for his endorsement was the fact that Dogus is an “amazing fundraiser”. Now he’s still trying to get him selected as a candidate even though he was beaten. Vaz has not responded to a request for comment. Fishy…

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.

London Lobbyists Landed Millions in Filthy Ukrainian Lucre

Lobbyists and spinmeisters who coined it on the back of Viktor Yanukovych’s authoritarian Ukrainian regime are getting jumpy. Meet James Wilson, a leading light at city spin shop FIPRA (Finsbury International Policy & Regulatory Advisers) who looks after firm’s Ukrainian clients. Oddly enough Wilson’s work at FIPRA Ukraine is not declared on the EU Transparency register. That despite FIPRA’s own website confirming that he is in charge of spinning for the Federation of Employers of Ukraine, who are backed by Yanukovych ally Serhiy Kurchenko, one of only 18 Ukranian kleptocrats to be hit with an EU asset freeze and travel ban. Possibly to do with him defrauding the Ukraine’s coffers of more than $1 billion…

Wilson is listed as a representative of the innocuous sounding “EU Ukraine Business Council” set up to “promote trade, economic and business links between Ukraine and the EU and initiate projects that contribute to the development of Ukraine”. The Chamber, whose offices are located in Viktor Yanukovych’s powerbase of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, holds regular conferences in the European Parliament, where it euphemistically claims to “help to solve market access difficulties”. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink…

Also among Wilson’s clients is shady pharma firm Alcon, who have been embroiled in several bribery scandals, to top it all, he also spins for the State Administration of Sevastopol – who have just declared independence from Kiev, backed up by Russian troops. Presumably they’re going to start paying him in roubles… 

You Cannot Bee Serious

Another reason to want the EU to buzz off. New figures revealed this morning show that DEFRA and the EU have stung the taxpayer with a £1 million bill… for looking at bees. The £1,009,861 funding from the bumbling European Commission has gone to “projects relating to bees” such as the National Bee Unit, the Bee Health Inspectorate and BeeBase, an IT system which catalogues information about bees.  Are they pollen our leg?

UPDATE:

Unite Cut Labour Donations by £1.5 Million

That’ll be £1.5 million please, Mr Tony…

Gordon Claims £215,000 Public Duties Costs in Two Years Taxpayer Triples £66,000 Salary for "Ex-Politician"

The £10,000-a-week expenses Gordon gets from his company are clearly not enough for the Prime Mentalist, who new figures reveal has claimed £215,000 in public duties cost allowance in the last two financial years. The money is offered so ex-PMs can “fulfil their public duties”, though since Gordon has said he is an “ex-politician”, barely bothers attending parliament and spends most of his time flying around the word giving speeches for huge sums of money, Guido is struggling to work out why the taxpayer is still topping him up. Especially considering he is still pocketing his £66,000-a-year salary as an MP. Presumably he will tell us he “isn’t receiving a penny of this money personally” either.

Another Comedy Tax Blunder Rufus Hound Company Uses Tax Minimising Celeb Accountants

‘Comedian’ turned wannabe politician Rufus Hound embarrassed himself when he said “David Cameron wants your kids to die” while announcing his decision to run for the European Parliament last month. Moralising Hound summed up his policies as:

“We all pay our little bit of tax and our fair share, and for that we expect schools, hospitals, police, fire service and a little bit of defence.”

But does Rufus himself pay his ‘fair share’?

Bob Simpson, as Rufus is actually called, is the owner of a company called Dogface Limited, which has no discernible presence anywhere and has just one other director: his wife. As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun, for some reason Dogface’s registered address is exactly the same building as that of showbiz accountants, Blue Skies Partnerships. On its website Blue Skies promises clients “we ensure you always pay the legal minimum amount of tax” and even has a whole section devoted to “minimising your tax”. Is that the same as your ‘fair share’?

Bob did not dispute the story yesterday:

Always looking to pay the minimum amount possible, eh Bob?

EU Spends £2 Million on Trolling Online Eurosceptics

This week Guido reported GCHQ’s sophisticated plans to infiltrate social media and blogs, presumably with the aim of fomenting revolution overseas. Now the EU is plotting something even more sinister, spending £2 million on internet trolls to subvert online Eurosceptic debate. According to the leaked document:

“[European] Parliament’s institutional communicators must have the ability to monitor public conversation and sentiment on the ground and in real time, to understand ‘trending topics’ and have the capacity to react quickly, in a targeted and relevant manner, to join in and influence the conversation, for example, by providing facts and figures to deconstructing myths. Particular attention needs to be paid to the countries that have experienced a surge in Euroscepticism.”

So if readers ever come across a Europhile in the comments, beware they may be a taxpayer-funded astroturfing EU troll…

Peter Bone's Family Actually Trouser £200,000 From Taxpayer

The Times splashes on Peter Bone being questioned under caution over a £100,000 benefit fraud involving Mrs’ Bone’s mum. It is alleged that taxpayers’ money was used to fund her care after her assets were apparently deliberately concealed. The real figure for how much money the Bones cream off the taxpayer could actually be double that at £200,000. On top of Bone’s salary as an MP, Mrs Bone was paid between £45,000 and £49,999 last year. Meaning that between them the Bones are raking in more than £100,000 from the taxpayer a year, on top of the £100,000 Mrs Bone’s mum allegedly swindled. He denies the allegations…

Labour Minimum Wage Campaigner Pays Half Minimum Wage

Labour MP Alex Cunningham takes a special interest in youth issues and even has his own Youth Manifesto in which he vows to “support a change in legislation to eradicate the age banding for the minimum wage”. Cunningham tell us: “It is wrong for two people of different ages, who sit alongside each other doing the same job, to receive different wages.”

As Guido reported in yesterday’s Sun column, it was therefore bit of a surprise to see him advertising for office help to work a 37-hour week at £3.37 an hour, half the minimum wage rate. He gets away with paying £125 a week because the job is described as an apprenticeship. What was that about paying younger people less being wrong?

Warsi Wars: Questions for 'Senior' Minister of State and Chum“It’s a Tale of Dodgy and Dodgier”

Once again there is a growing list of questions for Sayeeda Warsi over one of her friends. The bitter former Tory Chairman has been keeping schtum after eyebrows were raised when her ally got a lucrative contract from Department of Local Governement that was not publicly put out to tender. […] Read the rest

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Embattled Henry Bolton on his battles…

“I’m going nowhere. I have seen people die, I have seen people blown up, I have seen people shot. Even the Taliban doesn’t quite prepare you for UKIP, though.”

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