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[personal profile] jfs
I've just found out, thanks to the BBC, that Mike Gapes, Labour MP for Ilford, claimed £22,000 last year for his additional living allowance, and then a further £3000 on travel expenses. And those travel expenses are supposed to be for his constituency business.

That's Ilford. Zone 4. Outer London.

My travelcard, which gives 24 hour travel for a year, is £1400, give or take. I have to pay for that.

A taxi from Westminster to Ilford costs roughly £40 after midnight. Maybe £50 [livejournal.com profile] feistyredhead used to often have to get a cab home if she worked on an event that went on after the tubes finished. Her work paid for that. I don't have a problem with that.

But do the maths.

Parliament doesn't sit late any more - deliberately to make it family friendly. Mike Gapes could have a travelcard, and get a taxi home twice a week, and it would cost £7,400.

Why is he allowed to claim £25,000 instead?

I've sent him the following message. I'm going to be interested in his response.


Dear Mr Gapes,

Given the scandal enveloping the Houses of Commons at the moment concerning MPs expenses, I was wondering if you'd care to comment on the fact that the BBC are alleging that you claimed £22,000 for a second home allowance in 2007 / 8?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8044207.stm

If their allegation is true, I'm assuming one of your two homes is in Ilford, where I live.

Ilford, which is in Zone 4.

Ilford, which is about an hour away from Westminster by public transport, and about the same by car.

Mr Gapes - how many of your constituents do you think work in the centre of London? And of those, how many would you estimate have the luxury of getting £22,000 per year to obtain and maintain a property closer to where they work in addition to a salary at least twice the national average?

Yours sincerely,

John Scott

Date: 2009-05-14 06:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hortorum.livejournal.com
I've taken a look at my chap's expenses, about 23k for 2nd home and about 17k in travel, but given that he's from even further into the boonies than I am, I can see the travel being potentially kosher (first class train tickets being what they are, and I don't begrudge those really, I'd claim them if I was allowed).

That said, I do need to check how many trips he's actually made, and I am still holding his 95%+ whip loyalty against him.

I need to write a letter, once I can think of a nice way to put it.

Date: 2009-05-14 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] westernind.livejournal.com
where's the link to show who claims what?

I'm interested to see who's claimed the least. (I saw your post about the Beast of Bolsover.)

Date: 2009-05-14 09:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Link in my mail to Mike Gapes above.

Date: 2009-05-15 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hortorum.livejournal.com
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8044207.stm

MP's in full 07-08 tab...

Interesting reading

Date: 2009-05-14 07:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cookwitch.livejournal.com
I was amused to see the difference between the 2nd home claims for Havering's 3 MPs.

Hornchurch - £368
Upminster - £21234
Romford - £23083


Date: 2009-05-14 10:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kathbad.livejournal.com
You are so fab.


Date: 2009-05-15 10:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Why, thank you :-)

Date: 2009-05-15 05:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liz-lowlife.livejournal.com
I applaud you. ♥

Date: 2009-05-15 09:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
There are no words...

You, on the other hand are to be commended :-)

*toddles off to check up on his MP*

Date: 2009-05-15 09:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
Just to add, my MP claimed £10,585 last year for travel.

Even if he claimed for 1st Class Rail + Travelcard that only costs £8204.00, but I hesitate to agree that just because you can claim for 1st Class travel that you should travel that way as an 'extra' to your already healthy salary. I mean, if he wanted to travel first class would it not be reasonable to claim the £4152.00 for a Standard Class Annual + Travelcard and pay the balance himself?

Also, what is the extra £2381 for? If I screw up and get stranded in London past the trains (which on weekdays leave Paddington as late as 0130h) my employer does not pay for a £60-£80 taxi home, so if that is even part of the rationalisation for the balance I am genuinely annoyed.

With a base salary of £64,766, which as you point out is far in excess of the national average, claiming travel expenses of over £10k when everyone else who commutes to London from Reading is paying nearly £5k a year out of their net income is obscene...

I also feel a letter coming on...

Date: 2009-05-15 10:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
When Liana had to work late at the National, such that it would be difficult to get home on public transport (not impossible, because of night buses) they would pay for a taxi home. I don't think it's unreasonable that if your work requires you to be in London past 11pm, that they do the same.

However, Parliament changed it's sitting patterns a few years back to be more family friendly. They're now limited to two lates a week, and they don't have to be in Parliament on Friday (specifically so they can work from their constituency then). At £80 to get home, that £2380 could easily be taxis twice a week.

Date: 2009-05-15 10:58 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
I agree with you up to a point, but seeing as the trains run back from Paddington as late 0130h, Monday to Friday, I feel that using a private taxi to get home at a late hour is an unacceptable extravagance, particularly as this expense is reimbursed and is not being paid for by the Minister out of his Net income, which is what I would have to do should I be required to work until even midnight under special circumstances and then decide to get a taxi home instead of using a perfectly serviceable train that i have already paid for.

I will admit, that the grotesque cost of public transport is a bugbear of mine, and I am perhaps more incensed than the average person by the idea that an MP earning, at a bare minimum, 43% more than I per annum gets his travel completely reimbursed where I have to spend nearly half of what he has claimed from my net income just in order to earn my money in the first place.

Date: 2009-05-15 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Without wanting to negate your point too much, the reason that MPs get travel paid is because they are expected to work in two places.

I get expenses paid if I have to work away from my normal place of work. In their case, they're expected to live in (or close to) their constituency. That's considered one of the places of work.

Frankly, you have the choice to move to London to cut down on your travel expenses. They don't, and even if they did, would still be expected to travel back to their constituency.

Date: 2009-05-15 11:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
Okay... So when I was a freelancer, and my business address was my home, why was I not even allowed to claim tax relief for my travel, nor was it acceptable (legally) for my client(s) to pay my travel expenses (not that they would have done) if I was on their premises for 60% or more of the time I was working for them?

If MPs were paid considerably less than they are, then I'd be all compassion, but they are paid a lot more than a high proportion of people who are forced to work an expensive distance from their homes and we (the non-MPs) are given no consideration for this. It's a special case which seems to be __because__ they are public servants, where I feel that the fact that they are should negate any special considerations with regard to expenses for travel - the majority of their constituents have to put up with paying vast sums of money for poor transport, why should our taxes get OUR representatives a free ride in and out of Town?

Date: 2009-05-15 12:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Because you still had a single place of work. MPs don't. Their jobs require them to work in two places.

Date: 2009-05-15 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
OK...

If it's that cut and dried, then why, if it is possible to travel an unlimited amount between Reading and London and unlimited amount within London for under £5k, does my MP need to claim over £10k?

I mean I fundamentally disagree that his travel should be an expense when it's part of the job to work in constituency and Westminster, and he is paid more than enough to offset the cost, but if it is to be provided for from the public purse, then why not spend what is required, rather than more than twice the amount?

Date: 2009-05-15 01:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Do you know for a fact that he hasn't been required as part of his job to travel elsewhere, on top of his regular travel to and from Westminster?

I have, in my job, and I don't have half the duties of an MP.

Date: 2009-05-15 03:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
Fair enough, I suppose, but I can't help but think that he's unlikely to have spent £5k on travel that is not between Westminster and Reading, particularly on the basis that he's a front-bencher and as such the vast majority of his time will without doubt be spent in Westminster or at least London. More to the point, if he's traveling out of hours for the Conservative Party, I would expect his expenses for that to be paid by the Party, not by the Exchequer, and similarly any travel he undertakes for any non-MP purposes should come out of his pocket, or some other private entity's pocket, not ours (i.e. the electorate).

In the end, my point is that if he's going to make political hay out of the fact that he's the white knight of expenses claims (there's a link in the comments on the post on this subject on my LJ), then I want some assurances that he's not blowing £10k on a first class annual ticket and a weekly quota of cabs when he could easily spend far far less. If he has good answers then I will be mollified, but if he doesn't, even though he may be 'better' than others, he's still working the system instead of operating frugally and that still makes me angry. I realise that MPs don't make money commensurate with the hours and responsibility that they undertake when compared with the private sector, but no one put a gun to their heads and once they leave politics they are in a very strong position to move into very lucrative, high-altitude jobs in the private sector should they choose to do so. While they are working for me and you and all of us, I would like the onus to be on them to spend as little as possible on themselves; the amount required, not the amount that they fancy or that seems do-able institutionally (like the idea expressed by a couple of people on my LJ that somehow MPs ought to travel 1st class). When I have to travel somewhere on the behalf of my employer I go to great lengths (or have done in the past) to get good deals and minimise costs, even despite the general culture in this regard. As a public servant I really do believe that an MP should see it as though they are spending their own money (which as taxpayers I suppose that they are to a degree), rather than simply claiming what they are "entitled" to because they might as well, and it's a harmless way to bolster their inadequate salaries; not that I actually think anyone earning North of £60k / annum has a right to refer to it as an inadequate amount.

Date: 2009-05-15 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
I'm not disagreeing with you; I just think that the case against him is 'not proven', and thus ire is, at best, premature.

I like the Swedish system.

"Monthly salaries for Swedish MPs are at a flat rate of 52,900 Krona (4,832 euro, £4,448) apart from the speaker of the House and the prime minister - both of whom receive a flat 126,000 Krona.

External income over and above members' salaries must be made public.

At the same time, travel and home office expenses are covered by parliament, although travel must be undertaken in the cheapest possible way, and must be booked through the parliamentary travel office.

Second homes in Stockholm for members who live outside the capital are provided rent-free by parliament, which owns some 250 apartments.

Those MPs who choose to live in apartments they have found themselves receive a flat 7,000 Krona (639 euro, £588) compensation, but cannot claim for improvements to that accommodation, whereas the state pays for repairs and improvements to state-owned apartments. "

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7961849.stm

Date: 2009-05-15 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
Another reply: :)

Just had a look for your chap on "They work for you".
http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/robert_wilson/reading_east

According to them, his travel costs break down as follows:

Regular journeys between home/constituency/Westminster:
Mileage £1,680 (425th).
Rail £6,960 (115th).
Misc £1,482 (15th).

Other: Rail £235 (78th).

So - he doesn't claim for 1st class and an annual railcard. He might claim for occasional railcards at first class, but then that would justify him driving into Westminster occasionally. And at 45p a mile, he's claimed for about 3,700 miles in his car. (I don't know what the milage rates for MPs are - my last job I could claim 45p a mile, and occasionally, even when I had a rail card, it was considered acceptable to drive somewhere rather than take the train.)

Dunno what the £1500 misc is.

Date: 2009-05-15 04:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maleghast.livejournal.com
So, under the heading of regular journeys to and from Westminster and Reading he abjectly does not spend in the most efficient manner possible. Even if it looks reasonable on the surface of things he could cover 99% of his travel needs under that heading with an outlay of just under £5k, so why has that not been the case? I can do the maths in my head to work out that an annual ticket is cheaper than buying dailies if you travel into London more than 150 times a year, so why has he not just bought a Gold Card and used the train almost all the time? I swear if it came out of his own pocket he would do that, anyone would, and that's what I take issue with.

Date: 2009-05-15 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jfs.livejournal.com
*shrug*

Dunno, mate. Why not ask him? :-)

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