Before I get accused of being a Conservative just having a 'bash' at Dr Steve, let me state that I have resigned from NTCA and am feeling Independent minded tonight. I will be looking at Thanet North tomorrow.
I am all for 'out of town' MPs being able to claim for subsistence through Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) aka Second Home Allowance but clearly the abuse of the allowance is what has shocked us and it needs sorting out and quickly.
Yesterday's DT had something interesting that perhaps the Telegraph chaps have not commented on yet themselves. When carrying out audits in my military past I was always interested in patterns. When you look at the 'pattern' below you will see what I mean.
The following MPs had identical ACA claims for certain years: Anthony Steen, Derek Wyatt and Crispin Blunt all claimed exactly £21, 634 in 2005/6. They were joined in 2006/7 by Frances Maude and they all claimed exactly the same again; £22, 110. (Blunt must have been slipping because he missed by £1). In 2007/8, they all claimed exactly the same again; £23,083.
When you consider that ACA is meant to be an individual claim for precise costs relating to an individual MPs particular circumstances, then this pattern looks odd to say the least.
Now to Dr Steve. My maths could be wrong but he appears to have claimed £22, 563.22 for 2007/8 and £21,548 in 2006/7. What is interesting is the pattern in each monthly claim.
In a standard month in 2007/8 he claimed for:
Mortgage Interest: £991.95
Council Tax: £238.63 ( Except in Feb & Mar)
Utilities: £ 95.00
Telephone & Comms £ 52.00
Cleaning £ 80.00 (unchanged since 2005; apparently no wage increase for cleaner)
Service/Maint £ 50.00
Repairs/ins/sy £ 72.46
So he had 10 months at £1920.04 and 2 months at £1681.41 (no council tax). What I find fascinating is the consistency of the claim each month. Always £340.00 on food; identical use of phone etc; identical cleaning for 2/3 years. Did he not holiday; did Parliament have no recessions etc.
The only query by the Commons Expenses chaps was a muddle in Apr & May 2005 where a pro-rata change ocurred for 37 days out of 61 for some reason. However they didn't seem to mind paying out for Council Tax in Feb & Mar of 2006 of £216.32 for those months! (What Council collects Council Tax in Feb & Mar?). Also Dr Steve seems to have gone hungry in May 2005 when he only claimed £50.00 for food as opposed to the normal £300 per month for that year.
I am not suggesting that Dr Steve has abused or broken any rules but quite clearly the way the claims look, they appear to be a 'blanket' claim system rather than a detailed accounting for his actual Additional Costs. I would be happier to see each MP get a £25,000 pay rise than have this extraordinary system.