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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poaching the poacher

Oh dear! What chance do we have of cleaning up the political system and putting expenses and allowances onto an acceptable, transparent and accountable basis when headlines such as this one in the Independent on Sunday are generated?

They say that Sir Ian Kennedy, who has been put in charge of policing MPs' expenses took hundreds of door-to-door taxi journeys between home and work when he was boss of a health watchdog – and left taxpayers to pick up the bill.

Apparently, Sir Ian claimed almost £16,000 on private-hire vehicles to transport him around London during less than five years as the £170,000-a-year chairman of the Healthcare Commission.

Of course taking a taxi in London is much more of a normal activity than elsewhere outside of the capital but even so, if this description is accurate, one is led to question whether much cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternatives could have been found:

Although many of Sir Ian's taxi journeys were to meetings and other official engagements, the vast majority – more than 200 every year – were trips between his home in North London and the commission's HQ in the City. The fares ranged from around £17 for ordinary private-hire cabs, to £35 for "VIP" bookings on account with a premium cab service. The journey would take less than 40 minutes on the Underground – and even now costs only £2.30 with a pre-paid Oyster card.

For all the disparagement sometimes directed at London Transport by Londoners themselves, they have a far superior public transport system than many parts of the UK.

The saddest part of this story is that it gives those MPs who want to resist change a target to aim at. A number still resent the changes proposed to their allowances regime and intend to fight a rearguard action. This sort of controversy just plays into their hands.
The thing to do is to replace Mr. Kennedy with postman Pat. Who would no question do a better job at policing the unpoliceable.
Yer right on the transport in London . It's the best in the world. Better than NYC. Tube and buses every 5 mins to central lond from anywhere. I used to cycle from Islington (n.Lond) into central lond in 20 mins. Cost nothin.
Best thing is for mr. kennedy to get himself a good ol sturmy archer british bicycle and some metal clips to go around his troosers to protect from chainwheel.
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