Fraser Nelson

Getting away with everything they can

Getting away with everything they can
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So, no Ed Balls in the Sunday Telegraph tomorrow, no Shadow Cabinet. But we do get Sinn Fein (of which, more later) as well as Kitty in the City, aka Kitty Ussher who succeeded Balls as City Minister and is now benefits minister.

Anyway, she spent £22,000 of taxpayers’ cash doing up her terraced house in Brixton. A new bathroom costing £1,460, a carpet for £980 and windows costing £5,610. As she explains to the fees office: "The basic situation is that this house was relatively cheap to purchase but requires quite a lot of work." This would be the house she lived in for five years before becoming an MP.

"The plumbing in the entire house is strange," she wrote, "There are pipes that are not used. Can we get them removed using the ACA? The electrics are also odd... I am not proposing a complete rewiring but would the ACA pay for it to be made child-safe? Most of the ceilings have Artex coverings. Three-dimensional swirls. It could be a matter of taste, but this counts as 'dilapidations' in my book!"

Of course it does, Kitty, of course it does. But, in the Green Book, "dilapidations" is supposed to mean decay that occurs during occupancy, not renovation of a crappy flat in a way whereby the MP pockets the capital gains. In 2006 she realised she overdid it and said in a letter: "I am aware this takes us over our limit — please pay as much as you are able!" And this is what sickens me about the system. The approach taken by so many MPs: claim for as much as you can, and see what you can get away with.

P.S. I do like this extract from the end of the letter on the Telegraph website (pdf here) - all her demands, plus "Working hard for Burnely and Padiham" at the bottom. Ms Ussher was certainly working hard when assembling this manifesto for revamping her Brixton flat - but it's not entirely clear how the people of Burnely and Padiham benefited.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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