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MPs
MPs EXPENSES
JOB VACANCY
MPs are looking for a hired flunky to actually push the buttons for them in the House of Commons elevator and they'll pay 17,277 a year, plus perks, out of taxpayers' money to do it.

TaxPayers' Alliance boss Matthew Elliott said, "This is absurd, yet another example of how politicians are living in another world. It's just bizarre that those in the House of Commons won't press lift buttons for themselves."

He added, "Worse still, taxpayers will be funding yet another employee in the state sector, with a generous pension and benefits but doing absolutely nothing of value to the public."

The job is advertised on the Commons careers website, a chance to get in at the ground floor and really go up in the world.

But the ad lays down strict qualifications. You must be "smart and articulate" and have "experience of operating a passenger lift".

In return you'll get the 17k salary, 28 days' paid holiday, choice of pension schemes, interest-free travel loan, child care vouchers and cut-price gym membership.

Astonishingly, you'd be part of a four-man team operating two of Westminster's lifts, the other one serves four floors in the House of Lords.

Asked to justify why a lift attendant was being employed by the Commons, a spokesman claimed, "Mainly to assist the public." (Source:
News of the World, Mar/10)
FIRST CLASS RAIL TRAVEL
MP's are still enjoying first class rail travel at the taxpayers' expense. Politicians racked up a fares bill of more than 400,000 during 2010/11.

New figures show 237 MPs, more than a third of the Commons, put first class rail journeys on expenses and at least 20 MPs are enjoying free first-class travel of up to 14,000 a year each.

Parliamentary watchdog IPSA has told members they can claim for any first class fare costing less than an anytime standard open ticket, the most expensive available.

This means an MP going from London to Newcastle is entitled to claim for a 255 first-class return but he could make the same trip for just 110 in standard class. (Source:
The Sun, Jul/11)
 
       


MPs 10M SPENDING SPREE 

MPs went on a multi-million-pound spending spree last year in the run-up to a clampdown on parliamentary expenses. Dozens “flipped” their designated second homes while others spent thousands of pounds renovating properties and remodelling their gardens at a time when calls for reform of the system were increasing. Records released by Parliament showed that MPs claimed 10.7million towards their second homes in the 2008-09 financial year, an average of more than 17,000 for every MP outside inner London. Sixty claimed the maximum 24,006 allowance, with more than 230 claiming over 20,000.

The disclosure led to renewed public anger at MPs, many of whom were again embarrassed after details of the spending they enjoyed at taxpayers’ expense were exposed. The claims were not as heavily censored as the expense forms released by parliamentary authorities in the summer, but swaths of key information which would have revealed some of the worst abuses were still hidden. The authorities failed to release detailed information on exactly where MPs claimed was their second home, but did disclose whether the property was in London or their constituency.

Over the past six months, Sir Thomas Legg has been scrutinising the expense claims made by every MP since 2004. Hundreds have been asked to repay money. They have until Monday to inform the parliamentary authorities whether they will appeal against the review findings. Gordon Brown announced that he would repay 500 he had claimed for a “summer house” at his Scottish home to be redecorated. The Prime Minister conceded that the claim could be seen as “questionable”. The most recent claims which post-date the expenses files disclose that:

* John Healey, the Housing Minister, made an 88,000 profit in July after selling his taxpayer-funded second home. Last night, he pledged to pay capital gains tax on his windfall but refused to say whether he would repay the profits to the taxpayer. Mr Healey, who is now renting, was among more than 80 MPs who have switched their designated second homes during 2008 and 2009.

* James Arbuthnot, a senior Tory backbencher, claimed 2,750 for tree surgery at his country estate despite the work being conducted during the previous financial year. Mr Arbuthnot, who was previously criticised for claiming costs associated with a swimming pool, also claimed 15,000 for other work at the property, including the painting of its summer house, and 43 for three “garlic peeling and cutting sets” from a television shopping channel. He was among several MPs to claim thousands of pounds for gardening.

* Kitty Ussher, the former Treasury minister, was among several MPs to claim for extensive refurbishment of their properties to be paid for out of the public purse. Miss Ussher claimed more than 16,000 for the kitchen to be refurbished at her south London home. The Labour MP had previously claimed thousands of pounds for other renovations to the house.

* Michael Martin, the former speaker, is facing questions over his claims after it emerged he submitted expenses covering the period after he stepped down as an MP. The records show that the taxpayer funded his council tax for the entire 2009-10 financial year, even though he left the House of Commons in June.

* Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, was ordered to repay more than 9,500 after allowing his agent to stay rent-free in his taxpayer-subsidised home.

* Dozens of MPs are facing embarrassment over apparently questionable claims. Ann Winterton claimed 940 for the removal of antiques while Jim Devine, a Scottish MP, claimed for the cost of two bathroom refits in one year.

Paddy Tipping, a member of the Commons standards committee which polices MPs’ conduct, attempted to claim 50 for “dog minding”. The House of Lords also published details of the expense claims made by peers. Lords claimed more than 19 million in expenses for nights spent away from home amid ongoing controversy over the system. Several peers face criminal prosecution after it was alleged they claimed their “main homes” were actually properties they rarely used. (Source:
Daily Telegraph, Dec/09)


MPs will be allowed to act as 'judge and jury' on their own expenses by voting on plans to recoup taxpayers' money. They will be allowed to decide whether Commons authorities should have the power to force MPs to hand over unjustified claims. Independent auditor Sir Thomas Legg will 'name and shame' MPs who are refusing to payback money when he publishes his report. The Commons will then be asked to pass a resolution giving the parliamentary authorities the power to recoup money by deducting it from their salary or future allowances.

More than 80 MPs are understood to have appealed against Sir Thomas' findings and there is deep unease about how he has handled his controversial inquiry. Many MPs have criticised the way that Sir Thomas has introduced retrospective rules and arbitrary curbs on claims, such as cleaning and gardening. Although all the party leaders have pledged to back Sir Thomas' final report, there is a danger that large numbers of MPs could abstain when the Commons votes on his findings. MPs have privately described his report as an 'atomic bomb' which is going to cause 'huge destruction'.

They are also seething that Sir Thomas is being paid over 142,000 for his controversial audit of MPs expenses, almost as much as a cabinet minister. The former Whitehall mandarin has been examining all MPs second home claims between 2004 and 2008. Around 200 MPs have been instructed to return hundreds of thousands of pounds in 'excessive' second home claims. Sir Thomas' review is estimated to have cost 1.1million. He has employed a team of top accountants from PricewaterhouseCoopers to help him trawl through millions of receipts at a cost of up to 1million.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said, "It is wrong that MPs are going to sit in judgement on their own case. The Legg audit has exposed serious excesses across a wide range of Parliamentarians, and his findings should be obeyed and firmly enforced. If MPs reject his audit, or abstain en masse, then it will be a damning sign that they still aren’t taking this issue seriously. The public are losing patience with Parliament’s failure to accept how badly things went wrong." (Source:
Daily Mail, Jan/10)


On eight occasions, senior staff from the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission went to posh London restaurants and left taxpayers to pick up the bill. They include a 240 dinner where NAO boss Amyas Morse was taken out by Audit Commission chairman Michael O'Higgins and then chief executive Steve Bundred. The trio went to the exclusive Italian restaurant Quirinale, which is a stone's throw from the Houses of Parliament in May 2009.

The NAO's then chief Sir John Bourn took Mr Bundred out for dinner at Wiltons restaurant in 2007. No figure is given on the cost of the meal, but starters are 28. Months later Mr Bundred returned the treat and took Sir John out for a 103 meal. In February this year, Mr Morse took the AC's new boss Eugene Sullivan out for breakfast at the Mint Hotel in Westminster. An NAO spokesman said it had slashed its entertaining budget in recent years. The AC declined to comment. (Source:
The Sun, Jun/11)

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