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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Western Mail plays catch-up

Not wanting to be left out of the furore over MPs' expenses the Western Mail has decided to play catch-up and has started a series of articles designed to shift attention back to the Welsh Assembly and how its members use their accomodation allowance. They have started today with an item on each of Leighton Andrews, Mike German and Jocelyn Davies.

The paper has e-mailed all Assembly Members in South Wales West, South Wales East and South Wales Central to ask them to justify their use of this allowance. Of course the Welsh Assembly has much tighter rules than Parliament. Members are not allowed to flip homes, their second home is always the one nearest the Assembly and we have published details of all claims in full on our website. From this summer we will be publishing AMs' claims monthly, three months in arrears.

There is also an independent review body looking into what allowances Assembly Members can claim. Their conclusions will be published on 6th July.

As I have said previously I rent a flat in Cardiff Bay using the accomodation allowance. I have answered the Western Mail's questions. My response is below:

'I have only one home and that is in Swansea. I have a furnished flat which I rent in Cardiff and at which I stay one, sometimes two nights per week depending on the Assembly timetable. The rest of the time I sleep in my home.

I rent the flat solely to facilitate my work as an Assembly Member, for convenience and for the flexibility it affords me. The drive to and from my home is an hour minimum each way and on most days I will undertake that drive. Taking the train is mostly not possible because being a regional Assembly Member I will regularly be travelling home via other parts of my region. However, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesday nights I am often required at functions or events in Cardiff until late in the evening. There is often alcohol at these events though as you may know I am virtually teetotal. I could drive back and get home after 11pm, get up the next morning and leave at 7am to go back to Cardiff but this is not just tiring but sometimes impractical as well. I do therefore need to stay in Cardiff on the basis I have already stipulated.

The reason I have the flat rather than stay in a hotel is that it enables me to relax in familiar surroundings but more importantly to work. If I stay rather than drive back I have two more hours in which I can work in comfort. It also means that I have the flexibility to make snap decisions as to whether to stay or not depending on what has cropped up. I often have early morning meetings or work to do in the Assembly that is best done first thing so the proximity to Ty Hywel is very convenient.

I try to minimise the cost to the Assembly and do not benefit in anyway from renting this flat. At the end of the day, when I vacate it I will walk away with nothing extra than I might otherwise have. All the furniture and fittings will stay behind. On that basis I think that it is reasonable that I have use of this flat.'

Perhaps Peter you could explain why Andrew Davies and Edwina Hart don't seem to feel that they need a flat in the Bay. As for being tired then perhaps you should try lecturing from 9 in the morning and getting home by 9.45 in the night twice a week in order to get time off for council meetings. I did this for 17 years. For 11 years I would often lecture in the morning travel to Mid Glamorgan CC and then go back to Swansea to lecture. I would also travel up and back to North Wales in one day. Frankly the only AMs who can justify having a flat in Cardiff are those who represent constituencies in Mid and West Wales or North Wales. No one can justify using public money if they live in either the former Gwent, Mid or West Glamorgan areas. Even living in the Amman valley or Carmarthen you could travel daily to Cardiff in my opinion.
Utterly reasonable.
Well in Edwina's case I believe she stays in hotels as does Val Lloyd. I did that for eight years before renting the flat. It is not a matter of tiredness, it is the fact that I can spend the two hours travel time working. The lifestyle you describe is not dissimilar from an AMs. I tend to be working 8am to 10pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and often travel long distances in a day for my work.
I use to work each day traveled from Cardiff to Pembroke to work on the Oil refineries. We get up at 5.30 get on the road or train travel to work I did this for a year before applying for a council house, I was given one within months so moved down , all costs were mine, then the job finished me moved back to Swansea and I moved off to Grangemouth in Scotland no cost as the company said it's up to you.

Funny old world how people feel they should have gold plated pension traveling expenses while the rest of us move away to keep in work.
You are making the assumption that I gain from this arrangement in some way. I do not. Many companies and public sector bodies do pay expenses for this sort of thing but I accept that this is not the case all the time. I do not view any of this as an entitlement either. That is why I am supporting a review of the rules.
perhaps the western mail should look at WAG expenses and what Ministers can claim that way as opposed to peddling out old information on AM's.
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