Thursday, July 02, 2009

Channelling taxpayer's money into party funds.

Story on BBC this morning and on Dragon's eye tonight involves the amount of money that Welsh MPs and AMs channel into party funds under the cloak of rents and repairs. Nothing wrong with paying rent for an office (in my opinion) - as long as its at a proper valuation. When I was an Assembly Member, I rented a room from the local Conservative Association. I asked an estate agent to advise what it should be. It was between £3k and £4k as I remember it. But I heard figures on Dragon's Eye that made my eyes water - at least what Lembit Opik pays the Liberal Democrat Association in Montgomeryshire. While total spending by the 10 Liberal Democrats in Wales was a total of £46k, over £30k of it was in Montgomeryshire. When this is added to the huge sums which LO spends on the Communications Allowance, which is in effect an MPs re-election pot, I'm surprised that there are not gold plated doorknobs on the Lib Dems office.


Anonymous said...

gosh - what a huge amount Glyn for Montgomeryshire - why so much?

Looks like another sudden political retirment anouncment on the way for us?

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - On the surface this looks outrageous. I hope that the local media follow it up. The taxpayer is not supposed to be paying for political activity.

Bonetired said...

I bloody well hope that there isn't another political retirement soon! The LibDems might choose someone sensible!

Anonymous said...

Hang on a minute - as I understand it, Lemsip and Blaster Bates didn't pay rent out of their own pockets, it was the tax payer. And let me get this straight, cos I find it a bit bewildering. The Lib/Dems own the Lib/Dem premises used as offices for the politicians, yet they ask for rent? Why?

Is it any wonder that ordinary folk have no trust or confidence in politics anymore?

The revelations in the Telegraph show that the majority (some were honourable, it has to be said - but they were the minority) are more interested in raking it in than working in their constiuencies.

Anonymous said...

30k of our money into the LibDems Office - ouch. This is why I am against public funding of political parties.

Anonymous said...

So Glyn as you are so quick to comment on the other parties expenses would you like to comment on your party leader, Nick Bourne, spening tax payers money on a jolly to Brussels, £7000 on doing up his bathroom, money on an IPod, and £400 a month to the Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency office for surgery rental for which I have never seen an advert in the local press?

The Stonedmason said...

Oh well, my eyes watered when I saw how much the Assembly tories had spent 'paying rent' to the er.. tory party. But then again perhaps your eyes water less the closer it gets to home, Glyn...

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - Personally, I see nothing improper about renting space from local associations - as long as it is at current commercial rates - and backed up by an independent valuation and a formal agreement. It would be asking a lot of any Association, most of which struggle for money, to let a room for nothing when there are others who would take it.

Roman - I also oppose public funding of political parties. I cannot see why parties do not spend less.

Anon 2 - I would prefer not to comment on these things. Please forgive me, but I'm leaving that to you and others to do, in comments and elsewhere. In politics, as in sport and life, it doesn't do to undermine your own team.

Stonemason - I don't think there was anything remotely approaching the level of financial support that occurred in Montgomeryshire. The BBC figures I saw informed us that then Conservatives with 15 members claimed a total of £57k, while the Libs with 9 members claimed £46k. Labour claimed the least at £85k for around 40 memebers. Never makes any difference to me how close to home it is. Whats wrong is wrong wherever it happens.

Anonymous said...

this wasnt reported in the county times, as if it would be. now if it was any party except the lib dems it would be on the front page.

butetownboy said...

I too saw the report on BBC Wales last night, then again on Dragon's Eye.

Glyn makes a valid point that there is nothing wrong in principle of AMs/MPs/MEPs renting space from their political parties. Down here in Cardiff the 3Labour MPs and 2 Labour AMs for Cardiff all work out of the TUC building, which is lets face it the same as renting from your own party.

I'm slightly confused by the figure of £30K for Montgomery Lib Dems though, a quick scan of LOs expenses shows that the rent he pays covers things like heat water rates and services (whatever those are) but they don’t come anywhere near £30K, nor can I see how 8 LibDem AMs/MPs can run up a bill of £16K between them and Mick/Lembit can charge £30K. I think this is Dragons Eye getting a little too excited in my opinion and using some very round numbers. It wouldn’t be the first time Dragon’s Eye has been less than accurate with their research.

They made some valid points by looking for other cheaper offices in Swansea and Newtown, but failed to mention that the rates you'd negotiate now are considerably less than the rates you would have got 10/12 years ago when these AMs and MPs moved in. If you where still an AM Glyn, would you move a few doors down the road just to save £2Kpa - I wouldn’t think so, you'd stay where you were and where everyone knows you are.

And Glyn funny in your original post you have a pop at the Lib Dems, yet fail to stick up for your former college Nick Bourne and his foreign Jollies isn’t it?

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - Not seen my 'County' yet. Its deadline is early Thursday, so perhaps the story broke too late. Its quite big though, and perhaps it will appear next week.

anon 2 - I agree there is something odd about this. Much of the £30k seems to be capital expenditure to improve the building - a very grey area about can be claimed.

You make a fair point about changed valuations. And no, I would not move offices for something cheaper, unless it made sense for other reasons. Might try to re-negotiate though. If I were to be elected now, I would not be able to use the same office because its let to someone else.

And Nick Bourne can stick up for himself. I do sometimes applaud colleagues for something special, but if I became involved in all issues of this sort, my blog would be seen as a 'propaganda' site.

TCOAH said...

Perhaps the answer here is to avoid even the appearance of favouring one's party by hiring a room or office from some body other than one's party.

On another matter/aside - it's coming up to Independence Day - JULY 4TH! Well, across this side of the 'wee pond' (I believe I was the person who came up with this term - I used it often when I was typing up my chemistry PhD in Glasgow on a PC, with a PC next to me tuned into a UNIX box and via which I 'instant messaged' American friends I met on the University of Iowa's bulletin board - quite famous it was (at the time). Anyway, when asked, "where I was", I would reply as an honourary Glaswegain, "on this side of the wee pond" - meaning the Scottish/UK side. It caught on, and the term came into regular use - maybe there were others who used the term, but it seems to me I came up with it.

Anyways, with Glyn's permission I will write a piece on what July 4th means to one Welshman.

Bonetired said...

I agree with TCOAH about what links Independence Day has to the Welsh. I really liked the bit where President Whitmore mangles Dylan Thomas ..."We will not go quietly into the night!"

:-) :-)

TCOAH said...

Yes, the Welsh should make more of fourth of July - America's Independence Day.

It's a funny old world sometimes - what many in Wales want for Wales, America got in buckets of coal.

Cosmos guy said...

LO is just a guy. Not a guy's guy, just a Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy kind of guy. So it should be no surprise that he equates renting an office not with pounds, 5p pieces and pence, but with some fantastic improbable number - because, well, because ... he's "just this guy".

Glyn Davies said...

Regrettably, I've had to reject comments on this post as thay make serious charges which I'm not in a position to know are true.

TCOAH - It seems daft to hire a room elsewhere when everyone will assume the place to contact the MP or AM is the political office. I don't see a problem if politicians are straight and reasonable and don't rip off the taxpayer.

And by all means contribute a piece on what it Independence Day measn to a Glaswegion or a Welshman

Wanna be wonderguy said...

Yoooooo ... there's hope for all middle-aged single men ... c/o LO:

TCOAH said...

If you want to check the pulse of this great nation, the United States of America, one way to do it is to watch how Americans connect with their annual Independence Day - “The Fourth of July”.

After “911” in 2001 when America was hit hard, the World Trade Center collapse, the attack on the Pentagon in Arlington and a hijacked plane that crashed into a field in PA – despite these terrible attacks on the nation there was a great feeling of togetherness and celebration that coalesced on July 4, 2002.

American friends told me that after kicking Saddam out of Kuwait in the first “Gulf War” there was a great July 4 – a feeling of national pride, that America acted where other nations dared tread. America was one nation again, happy and confident that their nation was the greatest nation on earth.

The last few years July 4 celebrations have been pretty cool, but this year’s was definitely ‘not the same’. From the nation’s perspective, definitely different.

I noticed it, less talk beforehand of attending firework displays, less office chatter. There seemed to me to be less excitement and expectation on the TV. Americans are worried. Jobs disappearing, hours cut, even government workers with guaranteed pay checks are tightening their belts, spending less, and are increasingly fearful of what the future holds.

Last year I watched the fireworks going off just across the county line from Arlington (next county ‘over’ from Washington, DC), the skyline was populated with fireworks, fizzles and loud bangs. I looked down from my midrise balcony to see people out watching the same skyline, people out with deckchairs swinging back the odd beer. I couldn’t help but hear snippets of friendly conversation, “Oh, look at that one”. That was July 4, 2008.

July 4, 2009. Same balcony/vantage point, I did not see one person out on their apartment balcony, not one person sitting in a deckchair watching for fireworks fired from the multitude of householder backyards. No overheard excited talk. No kids. Perhaps as a ‘sign of the times’ several apartment balconies were empty and apartments destitute of light – clearly many families had moved out. Arlington is not the place to be if you have lost your job, people move away to reduce living expenses.

This 4th July 2009 one could feel the sense of worry and despair – the confusion, the worries about jobs and more particularly lack of jobs. Ordinary Americans are scared. Americans once so confident and proud feel they are facing a very uncertain future. They don’t like that, it goes against their sense of ‘being’, their sense of ‘place in the world’. Americans feel they can do well even in tough times, but ‘this’ is too much – Americans are very worried about their nation, their bedrock. They feel like they are somehow becoming disconnected from their bedrock – for many their faith is being tested beyond breaking point.

Yes, yes … the fireworks on the National Mall with the National Monument providing an excellent backdrop for the TV cameras were fine, superb, and excellent as they always are. The Welsh guests at the Smithsonian Festival on the National Mall must have been very impressed at the display, but could they gauge the mood of their guest nation from this July 4?

I have been here since ’97 – was present at the great ’98 Taste of Chicago Fourth of July display (fired off from a barge parked offshore) – the lakefront Grant Park was packed with families and young people – the atmosphere was electric, this was my first July 4 in the USA. The next year I attended a local Fourth of July in rural Illinois west of Chicago, guests of my then in-laws, we had a great time at DeKalb’s July 4 – it was superb, the feeling of pride and excellence was again so evident – seemed so tangible that one could cut it with a butter knife and eat it with Apple Pie and Ice-Cream.

This year? Flop? No, definitely not. But as the pulse of the nation goes, so went this year’s July 4.