Saturday, July 04, 2009

MP's staff car travel claim and the Sedgefield By-election

Do you remember the Sedgefield by-election? I do! I went to do the photos and video for the Lib Dem campaign (and managed to write off one video camera in the process when I got caught in one of those massive downpours.)

I wasn't the only councillor from Gateshead to be involved with the by-election. Paul Foy, Labour councillor for Birtley and office assistant for Blaydon MP David Anderson, was there as well. The reason I knew that is down to Councillor Peter Mole, a Labour council cabinet member. At full council on 19th July 2007, on the same day as the by-election, he announced that Cllr Foy was down in Sedgefield helping Labour in the by-election. As is so often the case, Cllr Mole is a useful font of wisdom when it comes to what's happening in the local Labour party!

I was therefore intrigued by the following claim for "staff car travel" made by Mr Anderson on 28th July 2007, just 9 days after the by-election. The amount was for £214.80. That seems an awful lot for one month's car use by a member of staff and, unless I have missed it, I can find no other similar claim anywhere in Mr Anderson's accounts. In other words this claim seems to be a one off.

Now, we all know that an MP's office budget cannot be used for party political purposes. Paying staff expenses to help Labour in a by-election is certainly not a permitted use of taxpayer funded office allowances. Quite what the claim in Mr Anderson's allowance was for, and which member of staff it covered, are not clear from the published accounts. All but the actual amount has been covered up.

So, could Mr Anderson enlighten us with the details as to what the purpose of the "car travel" claim of his staff member was for?

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