Wednesday, June 24, 2009

St Burstow Sins After All

The expenses scandal has rightly horrified and appalled members of the public. Local councillors get tarred with the same brush as being in it for ourselves. Nothing could be further from the truth for the vast majority of local politicians who give up so much of their time for scant reward. Most politicians have realised that this is not a party political issue but something that MPs from all parties have been caught up in and requires a solution from all parties.

Local LibDems however have been using it as an election message in the Nonsuch by-election to get people to vote for a local councillor, not on the 23 year track record of the Liberal Democrat council, certainly not on the previous track record of the LibDen candidate who failed to turn up to a single local committee meeting in his final year as councillor representing another part of the Borough, but instead on the issue of the behaviour of MPs outside London.

Why did they not look closer to home? Paul Burstow was lauded as a saintly MP by the Telegraph because he did not claim a second home allowance. Perfectly sensible for an MP in a marginal seat with a precarious majority. However he didn't warrant further research which would have uncovered the fact that he paid his wife to do his books and then got them checked by an accountant who did his self-assessment tax return (for one example see page 91 of his online expenses. Both were paid using taxpayers' funded expenses. Nick Clegg called upon Alistair Darling to resign for doing exactly the same thing. I won't be holding my breath for the same call to come for his Chief Whip.

MPs are PAYE, with their salaries being paid after tax has been deducted. The only occasion that a Member of Parliament would need to amend their taxes as a result of their work in Parliament is if they have claimed expenses for a high value item that would still be theirs should they lose a subsequent election. They then have to pay tax on that item as if it was a benefit, over a three year period. This would mean that the folding machine bought via Paul Burstow's £10k communication allowance would be taxable (which through some deft juggling of allowances ended up as a bill to the taxpayer of £15,525, one of the highest of all the MPs), but the £643.01 paid to a company to stuff 23,815 envelopes the month before and the £22.52 spent on wine and crisps "for stuffing" would not be.

Fortunately the residents of Nonsuch aren't taken in as easy as the Liberal Democrats would wish. One resident who has switched their vote from LibDem to Conservatives this time around, wrote comments on their letter. Next to "After all it's your money that is being spent", they have added "Yes we know. You waste ours Sutton." I hope that the rest of the election campaign can focus on the issues that the candidates can actually have a direct bearing on for the residents of North Cheam and Worcester Park and in the meantime, the Westminster politicians can stop the yah-boo politics that they purport to hate and get on with cleaning up Parliament.

UPDATE: The Sutton Guardian carried a story on this in their Thursday edition. Paul Burstow explained that he needed to get the taxpayer to pay for his accountant in order to account for his expenses to the taxpayer. Two issues here. He needed the accountant to do his self-assessment tax return according to the invoices. Surely accounting for expenses just requires the occasional use of a photocopier. Secondly, he didn't account for his expenses, Parliament eventually did by putting them on the website for the Sutton Guardian and others to read after being forced into it. This is in sharp contrast to Ben Wallace MP who made all of his expenses public as far back as February 2008 .


Cllr David Pickles said...

Yah-Boo politics Paul? Amazing how you fail to mention, for instance, Chris Grayling, who was exposed in the national press (pretty close to Sutton & Cheam I believe Epsom is), went to ground for a while and is still be investigated according to the Telegraph. Amazing you failed to mention the £250,000 plus that Tory MP's (Liars Cheats and Crooks according to some journalists), have been forced to pay back. I don't think anybody reading this can take lessons in probity here. After all, there aren't many moats and duck houses in Sutton are there?

Unknown said...


Up to your old tricks of deliberately ignoring the whole point of the story again, I see. Not only did I fail to mention Chris Grayling, but I failed to mention a few hundred other MPs of all parties that have been named in the Daily Telegraph investigation.

The point of the article is not to provide another commentary on the expenses system, but to show the opportunism of one LibDem MP whose second home is obviously a glass house.

The party has just been reported to the police for misrepresenting the European Election voting system, using their usual hackneyed two-horse race graph in a ballot which as they have argued for decades means that every vote, even for minor parties has an effect.

Now, they seek to use the expenses scandal as an electoral tool, when a) Paul Burstow has claimed for sorting out his self assessment tax, which in my opinion, is not an appropriate expense to hand to the taxpayer.
b) Whichever party wins the Nonsuch by-election, the result will not have the remotest effect on the changes needed in Parliament but will have a significant bearing on the North Cheam and Worcester Park area.

Colin said...

Only the claret lakes and demorol puddles in your neck of the woods, Mr Puckles

Cllr David Pickles said...

......yes Colin. Well said. Presume you are an old tory then, who cannot grasp the present situation, as Cameron and co can't.

Cllr David Pickles said...

.........Oh and Paul - if you think in any way that I'm sticking up for Burstow, I suggest you read again my letter in the Guardian. In one fell swoop I've damaged him more than your group put together.

michael said...

Interesting thread, Paul Scully, couple of thoughts-

I live in Cheam, so I'm not immediately bothered by Grayling in Epsom, or McDonagh to the north west in Morden, or anyone else – because I live in his constituency, this is where I raise my family, and a place I have called home for 7 years.

Paul Burstow is my local MP; I voted for him to represent me in Westminster, NOT to act like a chiselling overgrown councillor strutting around thinking he's a messianic/angelic liberal superstar. And NOT to pay for private tax advice with my money to accountants, so he can claim more of money back, and then to also pay his wife to do effectively the same job!

Whilst Mr Burstow is not one of the worst offenders, he is not whiter than the shade of Daz he purports to be. Besides that I have really come to question whether this may is an effective parliamentarian at all! What’s he ever achieved inside the Commons?

Cllr David Pickles said...

What's he ever achieved for Sutton and Cheam? There was a deafening silence when the fortnightly refuse was proposed, and I didn't see him (or some who have recently come to the fore for that matter), standing in the various borough High Street's for 2 years solid to garner enough opposition to it.

Fact is, he's a spent force. Just like the Tories I suppose.

Cllr David Pickles said...

It seems to be taking an inordinate amount of time for any comment on the Nonsuch result to appear here. I wonder if the internet link is down?

Unknown said...

Funnily enough, unlike UKIP who couldn't find 10 supporters across the ward in time to let them run, I've been a little busy. Disappointing result means that Nonsuch will have to remain forgotten for another year.

Cllr David Pickles said...


Cllr David Pickles said...

How comforting to learn today that whilst most ordinary folk toil day in day out for a buck, The Laird of London aka Boris "Gimme the money" Johnson, declares that the £250,000 he receives from the Telegraph for articles is "chicken feed".

So we know what the rotten with money Tories think of the public then.

kensington and chelsea said...

I suppose local issues should decide council elections.