Friday, 18 December 2009
WHY IS THIS MAN STILL FREE TO WALK OUR STREETS?
Sion Simon, a Culture minister, told Parliamentary officials that a rented north London property was his “second home” for expenses purposes. The flat was owned by his sister Ceri Erskine, a management consultant.
Oh dear! MPs have been explicitly banned since April 2006 from renting properties from family members at taxpayers’ expense and the practice is now considered to have been unacceptable since 2004. However, Mr Simon continued to improperly make claims of £1,000 a month until 2008.
Last night, after being confronted by the Daily Telegraph, Mr Simon admitted that he had inadvertently broken the rules and agreed to repay more than £20,000 – one of the biggest repayments made by a minister during the expenses scandal. He apologized “unreservedly”.
How jolly decent of him.
Inadvertently? For all these years?
Between 2004 and 2008, Mr Simon claimed £81,000 in allowances for the flat, including £44,000 in rent and another £37,000 to pay for household bills and food. Mr Simon’s “main home”, which he funds himself, is a modest £135,000 terraced house in his constituency.
From April 2004, Mr Simon claimed £1,000 a month in rent for his sister’s London flat. She lives with her husband in Hampshire. He also claimed £150 a month for cleaning, £100 a month for council tax, £50 a month for telephone bills and the maximum £400 a month for groceries. He also claimed up to £250 a month for other utility bills. Most MPs submitted copies of mortgage or rent agreements and invoices to support their claims. But Mr Simon’s expenses files suggest he did not submit a single receipt for any living cost between April 2004 and April 2008, when he moved out.
Mr Simon also used his office allowances to pay more than £8,000 to a media consultant for “strategic communications advice”. MPs are banned from using office allowances to pay for “advice for individual members on self promotion or PR for individuals or political parties”. He also claimed more than £9,000 for four laptop computers and accessories, including top-of-the-range products from Apple.
Mr Simon, whose questionable claims were not uncovered by Sir Thomas or the Labour leadership, is now expected to face calls to repay more than the £21,000 he agreed to hand back last night.
Why is he still a minister?
No, like it says in the title, why is he still a free man?