Protesting too much

One could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Wills’ little outburst against the New Swindon Company and Swindon Borough Council was just a rather poor attempt to divert attention from the revelations about his parliamentary expenses, revelations about which he did protest rather too much.

I am not facing questions over items purchased at taxpayers’ expense during the past financial year ’ not least because travel costs are not items purchased at taxpayers’ expense and these are legitimate travel costs.

Ahh, spin, spin, spin. Travel costs may not be ‘items’, but they were still at the taxpayers’ expense.

I did not agree it was a mistake to claim this amount. It was a mistake to claim it under this header, which I did on the advice of the Fees office. It should have been claimed under the travel heading. I did not add that the costs ‘would have been’ allowable under my travel allowance. They are allowable under my travel allowance and they are being allowed under my travel allowance.

Spinning again: picking at individual phrases whilst not substantively disputing what was alleged. Does he really believe that saying ‘the trips would have been allowable under his travel allowance’ makes much difference from ‘the trips are allowable under his travel allowance’? And has he not realised that the whole problem with MPs’ allowances is that far too much is allowable?

The only reason my wife was hiring a Street Car to make journeys to and from the constituency was to save the taxpayer money. It is far cheaper — though more stressful for her — than claiming the train fares to which we are entitled.

Again, he misses the point. In what other job could anyone trough to this extent at the public’s expense?

And what of Mr Wills’ little outburst against the New Swindon Company and Swindon Borough Council? He admits to pushing for the creation of the New Swindon Company.

[T]he company was created, partly due to me pushing for it.

Yet he absolves himself of all responsibility for it.

Not enough has been delivered and both Swindon Council and the company are to blame.

The company is financed and controlled one third by the Council, one third by the South West Regional Development Agency — a quango created by his own government — and the Homes and Community Agency — a quango created by his own government. So that’s mainly his government wasting our money, rather than the council.

Mr Wills also seems not to have noticed the dire state of the economy that his government has created.

The plans don’t have sufficient vision, they’re humdrum…. I suggested a design competition with the likes of Norman Foster and Michael Hopkins taking part, but when I sent letters nothing was done.

Many would say that Swindon town centre has suffered from far too many council and developer visions over recent decades, and the Regent Place development failed through being too big a vision in a poor economy. Even in the topsy-turvy world of New Labour economics, it’s hard to understand how Mr Wills can believe that employing some of the most expensive architects in the business have made regeneration any more viable.