Socialist Worker

MPs’ sleazy housing scams cost us millions

Issue No. 2151

MPs have been lavishing millions of pounds of our money on everything from chandeliers to cat food.

They have been forced to admit to their “expenses” claims after failing to block a series of Freedom of Information requests, and under growing pressure from the media.

The scandal is awash with the seedy and the bizarre – but also shows just how removed MPs are from ordinary people.

They claimed a total of £93 million in allowances last year and are allowed to claim for things such as travel, constituency office expenses and “incidental” costs.

But the big money is to be made out of the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) that allows MPs to claim for the costs of buying or renting and furnishing a second home.

The revelations have shown the extent to which MPs have been “flipping” – changing which property they designate as their second home – in order to extract maximum cash from the public coffers.

A host of cabinet ministers are embroiled in this scam.

Changed

Chancellor Alistair Darling has changed his designated second home four times in four years.

He has also claimed around £10,000 towards buying a new London flat and thousands more for his home in Edinburgh.

And while unemployment rockets, employment minister Tony McNulty has made £60,000 worth of claims for his second home.

Transport secretary Geoff Hoon has built up a £1.7 million property empire with the help of the expenses scams.

As defence secretary until 2006, Hoon lived free in London in a ministerial apartment and rented out a London flat he owned. At this time he declared that his constituency address was his second home and claimed expenses on its running costs.

When he lost his free apartment in 2006, he bought a new Georgian townhouse in London and declared this as his second home. That allowed him to claim for money spent on the new property – £21,995 in 2006-7 and the maximum allowance of £23,083 in 2007-8.

Meanwhile, Hazel Blears avoided paying £18,000 in tax on the sale of a house we ­funded.

The communities secretary sold her flat in Kennington, London, in August 2004 for a £45,000 profit.

It had been designated as her second home, allowing her to claim thousands of pounds in mortgage interest and running costs.

But she did not pay any capital gains tax (CGT) on the flat because when she sold it she claimed it was her main home.

Blears also received expenses towards three different properties in just one year.

Designated

In March 2004 she designated a house in her Salford constituency as her second home and bought an £850 TV and video and a £651 mattress.

The following month she said the Kennington flat was her second home.

In December 2004 Blears “flipped” again after buying another London flat and declaring that as her second home.

Over the next four months, she claimed for groceries, £4,874 of furniture, a bed at £899 and another TV at £913.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.