Swindon MPs’ expenses

In all the furore over MPs’ expenses, Mr Wills must be feeling fairly calm. For some time now he has published full details of his expenses. For example, his statement of expenses for 2008/09 is itemised down to individual items, such as filing folders bought for £3.61 on 23rd March from a supplier called Banner. When it comes to the Additional Costs Allowance (the allowance for second homes and living in said second home) which has been the centre of attention lately, although his claims are not cheap (£19753.56 in 2007/08 and £18476.53 in 2008/09), they are restricted to paying for his mortgage, council tax, utility bills, telephone and insurance.

In contrast, the government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, has been far less open. Until today she has published no more than the house of commons authorities published. Her claims do not match her voting record.

I pride myself upon being an open and accountable Member of Parliament and I am happy for my constituents to see what allowances I use in order to serve the people of South Swindon.

Anyone that claims that whilst consistently voting against such openness clearly doesn’t understand what openness and transparency mean. Only in the last month as the anger has mounted does she seem to have had a change of heart.

So it was that late last week Ms Snelgrove put her signature to a letter urging her colleagues to publish their expenses sooner rather than later.

I will be preparing my expenses over the coming days and will make them public to my local newspaper on Monday 18 May at 2pm.

This she has now done, but in comparison with Mr Wills, Ms Snelgrove’s effort is half-hearted: it’s a summary-level breakdown of the Additional Costs Allowance rather than a full breakdown, and there is no breakdown at all of her other allowances. It is also accompanied by a rambling attempt to justify her troughing at the public expense.

In addition to following the rules I have based my expenses claims on two principles ever since I became an MP in 2005.

That’s the now thoroughly discredited rules.

The first is that I don’t want to profit from the taxpayer in the short or long-term.

Well, she may not be profiting, but she’s certainly been living very comfortably — some might say luxuriously — in her second home at our expense. Over £4000 spent on her living room in three years, over £2000 on her bedroom and over £500 on bedding in the same period.

The second is that my claims should be for expenses I would not have if I was doing another job working in Swindon only, rather than living and working in two places (London and Swindon) as MPs have to.

I presume then that she would have chosen to starve if she hadn’t been an MP, as she claimed £4300 on food in one year.

The majority of items I have bought are one-offs, apart from replacement items when a cupboard collapsed and all the contents were smashed, and water damage to towels and bedding following a leak.

Was she not insured? Perhaps not as it was only in 2007/08 that she claimed £137.23 for insurance.

I want to see the House of Commons introduce a system which is transparent yet enables all MPs to fulfill (sic) their parliamentary and constituency duties fully

That’s not what her voting record suggests.

I also pledge to clean up the second jobs scandal, where many MPs work not for their constituencies but for commercial or lobby companies despite receiving a full parliamentary salary.

Lets not forget that every Labour MP is sponsored by a union. It’s not just those with second jobs that represent interests other than those of their constituents.

I want to be accountable to constituents in Swindon South and I want to maintain your trust.

On the evidence so far, Ms Snelgrove’s failed on both counts.