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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Welsh UKIP leader has pay docked over unused office

The BBC reports that the UKIP leader in the Welsh Assembly, Gareth Bennett, who spent almost £10,000 of public money on a damp office that was never used, has agreed to have his salary cut to repay some of the cash.

They say that the Assembly Member signed the lease against advice, but has now apologised and had £2,477 taken from his pay. A committee of the Assembly found Mr Bennett breached the code of conduct by improperly using Assembly resources, and had consequently brought the assembly into disrepute.:

AMs on the assembly's standards committee have recommended the UKIP group leader be formally reprimanded. But he will not be subject to the most serious punishment available - exclusion from the assembly.

The move means that the aborted project to open a constituency office at the former Angharad's Nightclub in Pontypridd has cost the South Wales Central AM £7,009.

He had already paid £4,533 in legal fees to get out of the lease on the property, which was riddled with damp, had no electricity on one floor and was in a state of disrepair.

The AMs' decision followed the findings of an investigation by the standards commissioner Sir Roderick Evans which found Mr Bennett signed the lease on the office against solicitors' advice, without a survey and without seeing it himself.

The lease was due to last until April 2021 but it was terminated in September 2017 after it emerged the cost of repairing the building exceeded the allowances available to AMs.

The BBC adds that a total of £9,883 was spent in taxpayers money by Mr Bennett on the property, including £2,477 on building materials, after a lease was signed in March 2017. The commissioner was unable to fully ascertain what happened to the materials, the sum of which Mr Bennett is effectively repaying in his November pay, although he assumed some were used in the office.

The conclusion of this affair has denied Wales of one of the more unlikely link-ups in political history. As the Western Mail reported in November 2016, Mr. Bennett had invited Donald Trump to the official opening of his office claiming that the two men had a lot in common. If he had thrown in a visit to the golf course at Celtic Manor the President may well have been interested.
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