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Monday, June 29, 2009

The long awaited publication

The new searchable database of Assembly Members claims under their allowances system can be found here.

The media have been salivating over this for days now so we will see what emerges. However, if Westminster had been as open and as transparent as this from the start then they would have taken much of the sting out of their own problems.

The Sir Roger Jones report on reforming AM's allowances is due out a week today, at around 2.30pm I believe.
The media may have been salivating over the release of the most recent expenses, but they've been sorely disappointed.

Some applause for the assembly making an effort to put a summary of expenses out there, but would we really see anything controversial posted?

Having descriptions such as 'office equipment - other' isn't really the same as "Office Equipment - ipod - for welsh podcasts only - really i don't use it for music - honestly"
They are all there, really. The invoices are also available for inspection. It is fully transparent with no attempt to hide anything.
I liked the £25 that Nick Bourne spent on a subscription to the Bevan Foundation. Has he seen the light?
Possibly. I have just sent off my £40 subscription to the IWA and I am also a member of the Bevan Foundation but it did not occur to me to claim it back.
What about the £2,438.79 Nick Bourne has claimed for a website Peter? With money like that, it should be twice as good as yours!!!
Peter, what amazes me is the amount of time some AMs have for form filling. Huw Lewis making 40p claims for 1mile journeys by car? Couldn't he have walked or maybe ... ummmm wiavered it... 40P? Half the price of a copy of the Times, but he probably would have claimed that too.
I cannot find that entry but most of us claim travel on a monthly basis. That can throw up some quirks. For example I claimed a few hundred pounds for mileage one month and £1 for parking. These are listed separately on the website even though they were on the same form. There is also an issue with formatting on the web site. There are some months I am down as not claiming mileage at all but I did. The reason is that they were processed in the subsequent month and shown as such.
My other half's a teacher. She's very successful Head of Department - she gets the best value-added results in her school. As just one of her many out of hours activities she runs a debating club. She buys the schoolkids biscuits.

Any chance of claiming that expense back? Nope. Wouldn't even think of it.

Any chance of our MPs, AMs, etc behaving similarly?

David, unfortunately the media coverage has given a misleading impression of the whole allowances issue. There is no doubt that there have been abuses, that some MPs appear to have broken more then just the rules and that there is a need for reform but the vast majority of politicians are not on the make.

The publication of Assembly expenses this week in my view showed that transparency works. Certainly my claims and those of most AMs were related to only those things that are needed to carry out our job and I (and others) do not gain anything from them.

With regards to your partner, I run a constituency office and maintain a float there to cover day to day running costs, as well as tea and biscuits etc for my staff. I have put thousands of pounds into that float over the last 10 years but have never sought to claim any of it back.

I do not say this to gain any kudos but to illustrate that we do not seek to claim everything back or to squeeze the system for all we can get. There are other examples too.
'but the vast majority of politicians are not on the make'

I just don't believe it, Peter (you know, of course, that I have a higher regard for some, yourself included). I know there are many MPs who are not particularly corrupt; but I've not seen the slightest attempt to demonstrate that the 'vast majority' are clean.

I've heard plenty of assertions
- often from the people who tried to stop the information getting out in the first place and/or seem not to understand the difference between merely rule-following and behaving ethically.

I recommend this brief post by Chris Dillow on rule fetishism and virute ethics:

Believe it or not David it is true. However, even if you do not accept that you should acknowledge that there is a marked difference in terms of transparency between AMs and MPs.
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