Sunday, 17 May 2009

THANET SOUTH - HOW DOES OUR LOCAL MP COMPARE?

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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:
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Mortgage Interest: £991.95
Council Tax: £238.63 ( Except in Feb & Mar)
Food: £340.00
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.
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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.
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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.

5 comments:

Jane said...

I agree with you Bertie, MP's should get an increase in basic salary and not be allowed to claim 'allowances' as opposed to 'out of pocket expenses' which many of us incur in the course of our work and claim back (parking, petrol, etc if associated with work). I may be wrong here and hope to stand corrected, but I think the system of allowances started under Thatcher - although not to the degree we now have - because MP's salaries did not increase. Thatcher did not see a need for increases as she was independently wealthy.

In giving MP's a pay rise however, it should be ensured that it is their only 'job' - no Directorships, Consultancies etc which might colour their views. We need people nationally - yes and locally - whose prime concern is the people they represent and not what they can put in their pockets.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Bertie

This expenses and allowances scandal could change some definitions in our vocabulary. For many years slang has been used to denote certain amounts of money like Pony, Score and Monkey. Perhaps certain amounts of money or finacial misgivings could be named after MP's first names or surnames . I suppose at local level £18,000 could be referred to as a Sandy .

Anonymous said...

Yes, Margaret Thatcher introduced the scheme in 1983.

Incidentally, when I worked in local government I couldn't get even so much as a refund on a bus fare without producing the relevant ticket. One authority even issued plastic tokens and heaven help you if you tried to go a stop further than that covered by the token. Needless to say i didn't stay long there as I objected to be treated like a child receiving free dinner tokens.

KCC councillors have to log in at County Hall each time they go and these logs are checked with the petrol claims form submitted each month. If you haven't logged in, no petrol refund.

My point before anyone asks me is that there are checks in most jobs to ensure no-one is fiddling expenses so I have to ask how many staff are employed in the Fees' Office and can they check each claim to verify it's correct?

Interesting that MPs from all parties tried to stop the publication of their expenses. If you've nothing to hide....

Anonymous said...

I think you'll find, Bertie, that parliament has 'recesses', not 'recessions'.

Er, on the other hand...

Bertie Biggles said...

23.31: Well spotted; a Freudian slip that I will leave! Thanks.