One of my photos

Absolutely rental

February 5th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

With all the shenanigans about dodgy donations, backhanders to invisible relatives and other ‘administrative errors’ I expected a steady stream of similar examples to be uncovered. I didn’t expect to see the whole expenses thing taken to a whole new level of piss-taking.

Let me see if I understand this right: a couple of MPs have a London flat. The mortgage is paid so they own it outright and there is no expense involved – apart from council tax. So they put it in trust for their children and then pay the trust rent which they claim as expenses. The level of rent is independently and objectively assessed to be about £500 under the maximum level for allowances. Handy.

I like the way Winterton describes it in the Times:

Sir Nicholas said: “I see nothing unethical or wrong . . . it was agreed by the Commons Fees Office. I happen to rent a property that I bought outright.”

“I happen to rent a property that I bought outright” If you can’t see anything wrong or unethical in that you are just not looking hard enough! Basically what they are saying is that it is not an expenses fiddle but a perfectly legitimate tax avoidance scheme to reduce inheritance tax for their poor starving children – there is probably some sort of loophole in there to avoid capital gains as well.

These allowances are to cover MPs when their circumstances mean that they have to incur some sort of cost which is unavoidable and part of their job. For a Cheshire MP, having some sort of place in London is going to be necessary so its right that a reasonable expense should be covered. Creating an artificial cost just so you can claim it back it just greedy and it certainly fits my definition of unethical.

How on earth do the Tories expect to fund all these grandiose plans to have nurses paying house calls to all new mothers, and loads of extra wardens patrolling kids’ playgrounds if they are not only muttering about tax cuts again, but setting the example of avoiding taxes themselves? The message is clear – the costs of any plans they come up with are not going to be met by them: its people like me, people who pay all their taxes, who would foot the bill.

Oh – and by cutting benefits probably.

One thing I know about benefits is that if you have some savings and try to hide them by transferring all your money to a relative, you won’t be able to claim them. Imagine someone with a paid-up mortgage getting made redundant, giving their house and payoff to their children and then claiming housing benefit to pay rent to the children – the Mail and Express would be throwing words like ‘fraud’, ‘Sponger’ and ‘cheat’ around for weeks. By coincidence these are exactly the words which sprung to mind when I read about all this today.

Why can’t more Tories be like Ben Wallace?

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