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 with ratatouille.
  • Warm chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream.
  • Coffee and Truffles.
  • DRINKS.

WINES:

  • Simonet-Febvre, Chablis 2011
  • l’Espirit de Bellevue, St Emillion 2011

Twitter Hashtag #GF10

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 fairs in her constituency. The jobs fairs were organised by Events Office, a company run by Terri Lock, who is a Rudd’s former agent and a Tory council candidate in Hastings. Terri is married to Matthew Lock, former leader of Hastings Conservative group. Events Office seem to get a lot of business from the Tories, having organised a number of jobs fairs in the constituencies of other Tory MPs including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Charities minister Brooks Newmark.

Guido’s favourite Labour MP Karl Turner says:

“Amber Rudd has serious questions to answer about whether the rules have been upheld. There can be no question of funnelling taxpayers’ cash to cronies against the rules. I hope David Cameron will investigate the behaviour of his new Minister.”

Fishy…

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 this we must add the free travel and funding for their London pads. Bear in mind that all three major parties have policies in favour of holding down public sector pay – Labour’s policy is to hold public sector pay increases to 1%. Politicians wonder why we hate them…

Don’t forget that many of them get paid tens of thousands more for ministerial roles and for being Select Committee chairmen. MPs’ mean average pay is actually thousands higher than charted above. Don’t forget that this is the rate of pay for an entry level position, requiring no experience, training or qualifications – as Gordon Brown proves, you don’t even have to show up at the place of work. Absolute numpties get paid triple what a qualified, trained nurse gets paid. Don’t forget they have a 3 months paid summer holiday, another month off in December and the least number of working days in parliament since universal suffrage began. There is no need to pay MPs more – there are more than enough willing candidates for the jobs. MPs who want to earn more money should get a proper job…

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 facing ridicule in the press. In the interests of openness, accountability and transparency – principles IPSA clearly have no interest in – Guido is publishing some recent claims that they want to keep secret:

  • David Cameron – bulldog clip, 7p
  • Austin Mitchell – pencil sharpener, 2p
  • Cheryl Gillan – calender, 4p
  • Jeremy Hunt – paper clips, 5p
  • Emma Lewell Buck – pencil sharpener, 5p
  • Liz Kendall – pencil sharpener, 7p
  • Harriet Harman – drawing pins, 10p
  • Ken Clarke – ruler, 11p
  • Andrew Mitchell – Tipp-ex, 13p
  • Sarah Teather – staples, 17p
  • Chi Onwurah – mouse mat, 18p
  • Alan Johnson – fold back clips, 34p
  • Vince Cable – scissors, 43p
  • Nadhim Zahawi – hole punch, 53p
  • Alistair Darling – glue stick, 64p
  • Vera Baird – dustpan, 69p
  • Gordon Browncalculator, £1

It goes without saying IPSA should be acting in the interests of the taxpayer and not simply sparing MPs’ blushes, but there is also a wider point here. Jim Devine submitted false invoices for printing costs, an expenses claim he was eventually jailed for. Keeping this seemingly trivial claim secret might have meant he got away with it. That alone shows why every expenses claim, however small, must face the disinfecting glare of sunlight…

£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 up his children. Last year Simmonds was named by his local paper as the most expensive MP in his county after they found he had claimed £173,436.96 in expenses for 2013. He cost the taxpayer:

  • £137,426.92 payroll
  • £13,005.38 office costs
  • £5,910.00 staffing expenses
  • £25,000 employing his wife Lizbeth as his office manager

Simmonds and his wife directly took home over £160,000 from the taxpayer last year, as well as claiming for tens of thousands more in other expenses. On top of that, IPSA rules allow MPs to claim £27,875 a year for rent. He says that is not enough to bring up his family in London. Guido imagines his missus told him he wasn’t going anywhere so he might as well start on getting a proper job and making some proper money…

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 cheaper? Guido decided to find out.

The Speaker charged us £45 for a car from parliament to Euston station and £67.50 for the return journey the following day. A quick browse of Guido’s Uber app (other free market-supporting smartphone-friendly cheap car travel services are also available) shows we could do the journey for a tenner each way.

Bercow did much better on his train journey. He billed £239.10 for him and two staffers to get up to Manchester, the standard fare. Though when he got to Manchester, the Speaker inexplicably blew £500 on cars across the city. Since the trip was only meant to be for a church service and then the funeral, Guido struggles to see why he spent so much on taxis. We reckon we’d have spent £50 at the absolute maximum.

Finally, Bercow put himself and his staffers up at the posh Park Inn by Radisson hotel at a cost to the taxpayer of a cool £364. There are plenty of budget hotels well situated in Manchester. Guido chose the Ibis Budget, which would have given us three rooms for £96.

Bercow total: £1,290

Guido total: £405

Every little helps…

SPEAKER WATCH: Pointless Parliamentary Vanity Prizes

Browsing the Parliamentary Intranet, as is his wont, Guido has come across the ‘The Diversity and Inclusion Awards’ that took place on Monday. Another Bercow wheeze that we are paying for. “All parliamentary passholders are eligible to be recognised by the annual award”, and apparently the judges “had a hard job to choose from the high calibre of nominations, over 40 of which were submitted.” Don’t all rush at once.

Congratulations to all the worthy winners, in these powerful categories:

Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
Runner-up: Martin Smith (Deputy Business Relationship Manager, PICT)
Winner: John Thursfield (Portfolio Manager, DHRC) and Salma Dean (Peer’s staff)

Catalyst for Change
Runner-up: Polly Meeks (Inquiry Manager, International Development Committee, DCCS)
Winner: Catherine Tyack (Joint Clerk, Public Administration Select Committee, DCCS)

Most Improved in Access and Inclusion
Runner-up: Dane Smith (Visits Officer, Parliamentary Education Service, DIS)
Winner: Tony Williams (House of Commons Information Office, DIS)

Inspiring Role Model
Runner-up: Tom Goldsmith (Head of the Office of the Chief Executive, OCE)
Winner: Abiola Babalola (Senior Management Accountant, DF)

Special Recognition Award
The judges also conferred a Special Recognition Award to someone who was noted for having made a number of contributions to different areas of Parliament, including work on equality analyses across Parliament, support to individuals, and co-chairing of ParliOUT.
Winner: Jenny Radcliffe (Business Change and Project Manager, Security Arrangements Renewal Programme, Office of the Parliamentary Security Director)

 The only catalyst for any change that Guido can see here, is towards a new speaker. 

Finally a Politician Begs for Expenses Forgiveness

Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura has committed career harakiri, spectacularly bursting into tears at a press conference over questions about him fiddling his expenses:

[jwplatform src=”http://content.jwplatform.com/players/6hCYbAUY-mCjhiWMJ.js”]

Guido would like to see this level of remorse a little closer to home…

UPDATE: In GIF form:

Tory MEP Troughers Try to Shut Down Dubrovnik Junket Story

Fourteen Tory MEPs took the gravy train to Croatia last week, recovering from the gruelling Euro election campaign by spending £30,000 on a taxpayer-funded “study day” at Dubrovnik’s luxury 5-star Imperial hotel, enjoying posh nosh and being entertained by world-renowned, and often lingerie-clad cellist, Ana Rucner. Though this time Ana managed to keep her mini-skirt on for her performance. As Guido revealed in the Sun on Sunday, Syed Kamall, the new leader of Tory MEPs in Brussels, only dashed back to London a day early from his “studies” so as not to miss seeing the England-Uruguay match in London. Now the MEPs who went on the jolly have been told to stonewall hacks investigating them living it up on the taxpayer, sending this email to the junketeers:

From: HOLTUM James
Sent: Sunday, June 22, 2014 11:23 AM
To: CALLANAN Martin; ANDREASEN Marta; ATKINS Robert; KIRKHOPE Timothy; VAN ORDEN Geoffrey; FOX Ashley; MCINTYRE Anthea; CAMPBELL BANNERMAN David; FOSTER Jacqueline; ASHWORTH Richard; MCCLARKIN Emma; DUNCAN Ian; FORD Victoria Grace
Cc: FURBISHER John; HOLTUM James
Subject: Study days

Dear Members, you may have seen that you are mentioned as one of the attendees at ECR study days this week.

Our advice is to avoid any unknown numbers for a day or two, but in case you are caught off guard or doorstepped, here is the line that we gave the Mail…

Shutting down stories about wasting taxpayer cash, clearly Brussels has taught them well…

Parliament Asks for Friends for MPs

An interesting job vacancy in Parliament:

Job Title: Induction Buddy for a Member of Parliament (Expression of Interest)
Number of Posts: 75-100
Type of Post: Internal – Expression of Interest
Hours: Variable during November 2014 – January 2015, and first two weeks after the General Election
Closing date: midnight on 19/06/2014

The Role
The Induction Buddy will be the first point of contact for a new Member of Parliament arriving at the House of Commons on their first day. The buddy will escort the new Member through the Members Induction Centre, answering or finding out answers to any queries that the Member may have and take them on a bespoke tour of Parliament. The Buddy will also be expected to provide on-going support to the Member in the weeks following the formal induction, providing the Member, or the Member’s Office with a first point of contact for any queries.

Why not, as a condition of their resettlement pay-offs, simply get those MPs who lose their seats to stick around for a few weeks to show their newbie replacements where the bars are and how to fill in their expenses forms?

Ed in Thurrock: Labour Councillor Faces Benefit Fraud Charges

As if there weren’t already enough rakes to step on for Ed Miliband in Thurrock, a local Labour councillor has been charged with benefit fraud ahead of his trip today. Clare Baldwin has represented Labour on Thurrock council since 2011, this month she appeared in court charged with making dishonest representations so as to obtain housing and council tax benefit, allegedly dishonestly claiming more than £2,640. Labour have suspended Baldwin while she contests the charge, though Guido is told she still sits in the Labour group. Let’s hope no one brings this up this afternoon…

GuyNews Special: Walthamstow’s #BiscuitGate Outrage

Expenses are back in the news, so the Guy News special rapporteur decided to travel to sunny Walthamstow to ask Stella Creasy’s constituents what they thought about their MP’s #BiscuitGate troughing. A complaint was sent to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner after St. Ella claimed £30.98 on expenses for Jammie Dodgers, chocolate fingers, kettle chips, sensations, Viennese biscuits, onion rings and Starburst sweeties for Labour Party volunteers.

The people of Walthamstow have spoken…

Farage Fingers Wrong Blonde

The Times have done over Nigel Farage this morning, reporting that £60,000 of taxpayer cash paid into his personal bank account is unaccounted for. The £15,500-a-year was for the upkeep of his constituency office in Bognor Regis, but since Farage gets it rent-free the accusation is that he only spends £3,000-a-year on running costs. Leaving around £12,000-a-year missing. No doubt it will turn out to be within the European parliament’s lax rules. It doesn’t smell right, even if the payments are automatic.

UKIP pre-empted the Times splash yesterday by naming the anonymous ex-party official who has grassed Farage up to the EU anti-fraud office as Jasna Badzak:

“Jasna Badzak is a convicted fraudster serving a suspended sentence, whose allegations are unfounded and vexatious. She has never been a press secretary or confidant of Mr Farage’s. Your use of her indicates that you are writing an article with a defined end by inventing a road to achieve that end.”

Just one problem: the Times tells Guido that Badzak was not the source of the story. This could get messy…

He Lied and Lied and Lied

Jailed expenses crook Jim Devine has been ordered to pay his former office manager £18,000 in damages after a judge ruled that he had defamed her to cover up his own criminality. Marion Kinley alleged Devine had stated I’d stolen significant sums of money while office manager and the reason I did this was because I had a serious gambling problem”. The judge agreed “that when he made these statement he knew them not to be true and that they were made maliciously” and that Devine’s evidence was “incredible” and “implausible”. This is one Jim won’t be able to charge to the taxpayer…

Guy News Musical Special: So Long, Farewell Maria

Goodbye…

Miller Drowns Out Osborne’s Good Economic News

George Osborne must be furious that because of Maria Miller no one is talking about the IMF’s forecast that Britain will be the fastest growing leading economy this year. They have today announced their prediction that UK growth will reach 2.9%, the fastest in the G7, and then 2.5% in 2015.[…] Read the rest

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John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, says….

“The UKIP vote is going to the Tories. That’s the story of the first week of the campaign.”

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