New expenses claims: The big players
See how the big beasts of parliament come out of today’s revelations.
By Ian Dunt
Gordon Brown: There’s someone in Canterbury who the prime minister really enjoys talking to. He made three lengthy calls to someone in the area throughout last year. One, on March 27th last year, lasted one hour and 44 minutes. Then, at the end of October he made a further two calls, one lasting 56 minutes and the other 59 minutes. His cleaning costs remain extraordinary, with Gordon Brown regularly paying up to £700 every three months for the service. The PM also paid for grass cutting, service washes, and £10,000 to cover his utilities, council tax and service charges. His love for Sky Sport appears to continue unabated, with signs he claimed to have Sky TV extended into his bedroom.
David Cameron: The Tory leader is proof that living in Witney brings its own eccentricities. He claimed £1,198.57 for oil for his stove at the Oxfordshire home, on top of the monthly utilities bills of around £180 a month. In October 2008, his claims for burning oil stood at £867.57, but by the time February came, he needed to claim another £331 for his second home. He managed to get a ten per cent reduction in the council tax charge on the property, but claimed for a mortgage of £1,081 a month.
Nick Clegg: The Liberal Democrat was ordered to pay back £910 by Sir Thomas Legg in October, once the retrospective limit of £1,000 on gardening costs had been set. Of course, Nick Clegg didn’t know that at the time of the claims, when he asked for £160 a month to cover ‘gardening maintenance’. He totted up £70.50 for drain clearage in July of last year.
David Miliband: The foreign secretary found himself receiving threats of legal action from South Tyneside council after he failed to pay £64.44 of council tax for his constituency home in South Shields. Another fan of gardening, he also claimed £132.96 for gardening duties, including £17,96 for bark chipping.
Jacqui Smith: Juvenile, perhaps, but worth noting that the former home secretary claimed £555.74 for a television, £244.90 for a DVD player and £611 for a double bed and mattress.
Alex Salmond: The leader of the SNP and first minister of Scotland may want to separate from the UK, but he still enjoys its hotels. He stopped claiming for a second home in the capital at the beginning of 2009/10 and switched to hotels. The Banff and Buchan MP spent £182.34 on hotels and £406.60 on food in 2008-09.
Michael Gove: The shadow education secretary is as sloppy as David Miliband when it comes to paying the bills. After receiving a warning from Waverley council for failing to keep up with his council tax instalments, he was forced to pay the total bill of £1,734.38 within ten days or face embarrassing court proceedings. That managed to take the monthly bill in May 2008 up to a whopping £3,733.34. That same year he had two claims of £40.34 for home insurance rejected after he failed to file receipts. Once he filed them, it was queried on the basis that it referred to his first, not his second, home, although it was subsequently paid.
Chris Grayling: Gove’s colleague, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling, managed to tot up a cost to the taxpayer of £11,236.56 on his second home. He appears to have over-claimed on his council tax when the fees office demanded a receipt for his claim of £106.33 only to find it read £61 when he handed it in. Grayling has given up claiming on the second home after it emerged he lives only 17 miles from parliament.
Alistair Darling: The chancellor claimed £7,550 in mortgage interest and £3,066.48 for council tax on his Edinburgh constituency home in 2008/09.
Douglas Alexander: There’s something of a Dickensian aspect to the international development secretary’s claims. He wanted £105 for a chimney sweep.
Andy Burnham: Meanwhile, the health secretary had a claim of £11.95 rejected, after he couldn’t provide a valid receipt for his TV licence. He also needed £479 for a leak in the bathroom.
Sir Menzies Campbell: Lib Dems usually come out of expenses fiascos better than their Conservative and Labour opponents, but isn’t a cheap man to uphold. He spent £150.95 for phone calls from his London home, £7,671 for food, £710 on cleaning, £568.32 on taxis and £168.10 on utilities. And that’s not to mention the £7,671 on rent and £1,449.87 for the use of the garage.
Sinn Fein: Sinn Fein MPs refuse to swear allegiance to the Queen, and therefore cannot sit in parliament. Fair enough, although it makes the claims of t Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness for a flat in London seem rather spurious. Both men claimed £21,600 in mortgage interest payments in 2008/09 for a two-bedroom flat. Pat Doherty, Michelle Gildernew and Conor Murphy also choose to live together, Friends style, with £1,800 per month each being paid out for their townhouse.
Jack Straw: The man in charge of justice managed to overclaim on council tax over five years, to a tune of £1,415. His note of contrition is a lovely example of gentlemanly tones. “I am sorry about this. I am afraid the reality of life over the past few years is that I have often had to complete claims in marginal time.”