Sunday, April 01, 2007

Recent Bonfires- 59

In the news this week:

Another £6.5m pa for MPs' self-promotion- "MPs have awarded themselves an extra £6.5 million of taxpayers' money to fund what was condemned as their own 'shameless self-promotion'. Every MP will be entitled to claim an extra £10,000 a year in expenses to 'communicate' with their constituents. But in fact the money will allow politicians to pay for 'vanity' letters and glossy campaign leaflets at the General Election - giving the majority of Labour MPs an advantage over opposing candidates. Critics dismissed the extra money, approved overwhelmingly by the Commons yesterday, as little more than 'propaganda expenses'. MPs already cost the taxpayer a massive £86.7 million a year in expenses and office allowances, or £134,000 each, including £5 million on travel. Their £60,000 annual salaries cost taxpayers a further £39 million. The extra costs bring the total cost of MPs to the public purse to £132.2 million." (This is London 28.3.07)

Sports Minister's boonies cost us £34,000- "It has emerged that taxpayers shelled out tens of thousands of pounds to fly Richard Caborn, the sports minister, and two officials to Australia to watch England play in the recent Ashes cricket series. But when Mr Caborn asked to meet the team, Duncan Fletcher, the coach, declined. The total cost of the trip - taken between November 30 and December 4 last year - was £20,475.60... Mr Caborn has been accused of profligacy before. Last year, the minister was criticised when details emerged that £14,000 of public money had been spent on sending him to watch five football World Cup games in Germany." (Sunday Telegraph 1.4.07)

£4.7m for Council Tax inspectors' globe trotting- "Council tax inspectors travelled to Hong Kong's new Disneyland resort to hold meetings on how to increase bills for English homeowners. The group including Britain's top inspector, David Tretton, discussed ways of revaluing all 21 million households in England every year with his counterparts at Hong Kong's ratings and valuation department. Away from the talks, Mr Tretton was able to relax at Disneyland... A photograph of Mr Tretton on one of the slides was published in an internal Valuation Office Agency magazine, which also referred to him having "tea with Mickey Mouse". The visit was just one part of a taxpayer-funded globetrotting mission by English council tax inspectors which included conferences and meetings in America, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Spain, Belgium and France... £4.7 million was spent on travel, subsistence and hospitality by the Valuation Office Agency in 2005/06." ( S Telegraph 1.4.07)

£737,500 for doing "not much"- "Bob Kiley quit his job as London's transport commissioner in 2005 after rows with mayor Ken Livingstone and his own staff. But, courtesy of the London taxpayer, he still has an income most public servants could only dream of. In a newspaper interview yesterday, Mr Kiley admitted he is receiving up to £737,500 over two and a half years for doing "not much". The 72-year old American is also still in the £2m Belgravia townhouse Mr Livingstone purchased for him on behalf of Transport for London... Asked what he does for the money, which covers up to 90 days' work a year over two and a half years, Mr Kiley said: "Yes, I've still got an office at Transport for London, but if you ask me what do I actually do to earn my consultancy I'd have to tell you, in all honesty, not much. Do I offer the British taxpayer value for money? I'll leave that for you to decide." (Guardian 29.3.07)

Home Office blows £16,000 plus on useless giant triangles- "John Reid's beleaguered Home Office faces fresh embarrassment after the collapse of a £125,000 deal to buy a six storey high abstract artwork for its headquarters. The sculpture, Hi-Cloud, by Eva Rothschild, was intended to dominate the interior of the new Home Office headquarters in Westminster, built in 2005 at a cost of £311 million. £16,000 had already been paid to the 35-year-old artist and to engineering and construction firms for feasibility studies and preparatory work. Cancellation fees are expected to bump up the bill." (S Telegraph 1.4.07)

Total for week-£11,987,500
PS Yes, one is an April fool... but can you tell which?
PPS Actually, on further reflection, I'm not sure it is an April fool. In fact leafing through today's papers, it's virtually impossible to fathom if any of the Big Government stories are for real- dog asbos, EU rules for unauthorised ditch cleaning, 2012 agony sharing deal with Paris... am I going bonkers?

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