Friday, 29 May 2009

Mrs Levitt jokes about expenses claims

The keen observer will notice that Tom Levitt is making a big public effort to face up to his critics and is frantically spinning as fast as he can: on his website, in the press, even on High Peak Radio.

But whilst there's plenty to comment about in all of this, we thought you'd like to see what Mrs Teresa Levitt - Tom's wife and PA (i.e. we pay her wages) - is saying about the whole thing. 

She's making light of it, and in public too - see below.
The above image is a grab of Tom's facebook page, and shows an exchange of views about his claim revelations. Note how Teresa Levitt sees the funny side of of it all - she'd hate to polish Gold. Perhaps they should take a leaf out of The Tory MP John Butterfill's book and employ a servant to do all that cleaning?

Note: since we posted this blog, Tom's facebook page has had comments removed from public view.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Poll & online spreadsheet of Tom Levitt's ACA claims

Having now read the documents published by Tom Levitt yesterday regarding his expenses, we have now collectively produced a spreadsheet with full details of the Additional Costs Allowance ('second home') claims made between 2004-2008, and this is now online and can be read by following this link.

Please note that the miscellaneous claims, and any other significant information, is annotated on the spreadsheet. 

We have also detailed the claims in individual posts for each financial year as follows:

Also note that we have recorded details of all claims made, and not necessarily monies paid out, or corrected later. We feel it's important that people know what Levitt asked for, rather than what he was given. In any event, the amount of money he has claimed, and what he has claimed for, will astound most people.

In the meantime, we have set up a poll, which you can view at the top of the sidebar. Our initial poll asks whether or not you think Tom Levitt's Constituency Labour Party should have him deselected over the issue of his expenses.

Levitt's claims: 2007-2008 ACA claims

Please read our general post about Tom Levitt's Additional Costs Allowance claims between 2004-2008. The totals are the amounts claimed, but not necessarily paid out.

Under the general headings, these are the amounts claimed by Levitt for the financial year 2007-2008 under the Additional Costs Allowance:

Mortgage - £6,424.34  
Food - £Bold2,916.00
Utilities - £780.00  
Council Tax - £1,267.32  
Telephone & Comms £420.00  
Cleaning - £568.53
Service/maintenance - £1,287.64  
Repairs/Insurance/Security - £455.98

Below is a selection of 'other' items claimed during the same period:

Table - £60.00
Cleaning materials - £20.00
TV Licence  - £136.48
Garage rental - £229.14
Clock/Radio/CD - £99.99
Vacuum Cleaner - £79.99
Cleaning materials - £10.00
Furniture - £ 59.99
Furniture - £ 16.99
Furniture - £ 76.98
External cleaning materials, DIY - £ 20.00
Kitchen equipment - £29.99
Deposit, bathroom furniture replacement - £675.00
Bathroom furniture - £1,577.76
Sideboard - £795.00
Batteries - £10.45
Kitchen tap - £229.83

Levitt's Claims: 2006-2007 ACA claims

Please read our general post about Tom Levitt's Additional Costs Allowance claims between 2004-2008. The totals are the amounts claimed, but not necessarily paid out.

Under the general headings, these are the amounts claimed by Levitt for the financial year 2006-2007 under the Additional Costs Allowance:

Hotel Stays - £683.48
Mortgage - £9,474.77  
Food - £Bold2,368.00
Utilities - £600.00  
Council Tax - £1,200.00  
Telephone & Comms £360.00  
Cleaning - £444.50
Service/maintenance - £1,287.64  
Repairs/Insurance/Security - £187.97

Below is a selection of 'other' items claimed during the same period:

Tiling - £84.69
Radio Alarm - £42.00
Towels - £44.00
Home Broadband - £119.94
Iron - £29.90
TV Licence - £98.61
Electric toothbrush - £49.99
Hair drier (?) - £19.99
Clippers - £24.99
Freezer replacement - £179.99
Residents parking - £85.00
Replacement of carpets in two rooms and corridor with Wood laminate flooring - £930.00
Flooring - £1,441.00
Labour - £1,510.00
Toilet system - £272.00
Builder/decorator - £1,750.00
Furniture/armchair - £89.00
Furniture: armchair, hall cupboard - £60.00
'Sundries' - £197.22

Levitt's Claims: 2005-2006 ACA claims

Please read our general post about Tom Levitt's Additional Costs Allowance claims between 2004-2008. The totals are the amounts claimed, but not necessarily paid out.

Under the general headings, these are the amounts claimed by Levitt for the financial year 2005-2006 under the Additional Costs Allowance:

Mortgage - £14,429.55
Food - £1,936.00
Utilities - £576.00
Council Tax - £982.00
Telephone & Comms - £360.00
Cleaning - £390.00
Service/maintenaBoldnce - £814.00
Repairs/Insurance/Security - £405.54

Below is a selection of 'other' items claimed during the same period:

TV Licence - £95.50
Bedding - £60.00
Residents annual parking - £85.00
Sky TV - £83.94
Home broadband - £119.94
Duvet cover - £24.00
Bedding - £58.98
Paint - £59.99

Levitt's claims: 2004-2005 ACA claims

Please read our general post about Tom Levitt's Additional Costs Allowance claims between 2004-2008. The totals are the amounts claimed, but not necessarily paid out.

Under the general headings, these are the amounts claimed by Levitt for the financial year 2004-2005 under the Additional Costs Allowance:

Mortgage - £11,287.37  
Food - £2,592.00Bold
Utilities - £576.00  
Council Tax - £1,015.79  
Telephone & Comms £360.00  
Cleaning - £390.00
Service/maintenance - £716.78  
Repairs/Insurance/Security - £496.26 

Below is a selection of 'other' items claimed during the same period:

Sofa Bed - £1,599.00
TV Licence - £121.00       
Gas/electric safety check - £176.25 
Keys - £15.00 
DIY equipment - £80.00 
Hot water tank lagging - £11.60 
Oven (?) shelving etc - £164.19 
Kitchen table - £199.00 
Telephone & extension - £99.00 
Hoover - £89.99 
Shelving - £37.75 
Double bed (second hand) - £200.00 
Bedroom furniture (second hand) - £150.00 
Emergency plumber - £65.00

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

UPDATE: Levitt publishes expenses details on his website

True to his word (for once), Tom Levitt has today published details of his expenses claims on his website*.

It's too early for us to comment without having read and digested the details, but we will be back to comment as soon as we have.

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Oh to be a fly on the wall

On his website, the High Peak Borough Councillor Anthony McKeown has today hinted at what will be discussed at the next Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meeting:
Friday sees this month's constituency Labour Party Meeting which as well as considering issue's (sic) around the forthcoming local elections, will no doubt feature some discussion on MP's expenses
Now whilst we do have our sources in the local Labour Party feeding us info, needless to say, we'd love to be a fly on the wall at this meeting. 

What position the CLP take on Levitt's greed would seem to us to be crucial to their credibility in the area. The right thing to do is to do all that they can to disassociate themselves from Levitt and his actions, all the more so because his puny majority of 735 mean that the future didn't look good for any Labour candidate prior to the expenses scandal breaking.

That the local Labour Party contains people of integrity and values is a fact we will not contest. Although it has to be said that they have had enough reasons to be thoroughly disillusioned with their right-wing MP for the past 12 years, this expenses issue is surely the straw that will break the proverbial camel's back?

If the CLP have any backbone and honour, they will make their feelings known and do what they can to dump Levitt before he drags them down with him.

Press reaction to Levitt's column

We await to see what the reaction of the local press will be to the new revelations from the Sunday Telegraph, but if their reaction to the press release put out by Levitt a week earlier is anything to go by, they will do their best to mount a damage limitation exercise for him.

The Buxton Advertiser have penned the most journalistic piece about Levitt - a balance between his own press release and some context, hinting at a 'tide of anger. They also carried this reader's letter on their website.

The Glossop Chronicle has pretty much regurgitated Levitt's press release line for line.

Meanwhile, the Glossop Advertiser has - regurgitated Levitt's press release line for line!

Of the two Glossop publications, the Advertiser is arguably more pro-Levitt, although there's not much to separate them, especially given that the Chronicle carries Levitt's weekly column in their pages.

The letters page in the respective papers are usually more interesting, though some of our readers tell us that the Advertiser have a habit of editing reader's letters to excise criticism of Levitt. However, with the tide of anger bound to increase, it will be a difficult job to do so from now on.

Monday, 25 May 2009

The Telegraph turns the spotlight on Levitt...

Yesterday saw the publication of the first revelations about Tom Levitt by the Daily Telegraph.

Here are the salient points in their findings:
  • He claimed £16.50 for laying a wreath at Remembrance commemorations in 2006 (although the claim was rejected)
  • He claimed £5,281 for renovation work to a £275,000 maisonette he purchased in 2007 (which was at first queried by the fees office, but then paid in full)
  • He claimed £8013.77 to have a new bathroom suite fitted in January 2008 - although the fees office only allowed £6,335 to be paid to him
  • He over-claimed £6,000 in mortgage costs (which he has since repaid)
This is a political bombshell for the High Peak which we'll return to examine further as time goes by. But it seems our suspicions about Levitt have proved to be true. And it raises more questions than provides answers.

In the meantime, what disgusts us most is that Levitt has blamed the claiming of the wreath on a member of staff. And at the end of the article, his quote to the Telegraph is:
"As a former member of the Standards and Privileges Committee, my conscience is clear”
Levitt seems to have raised the Telegraph's ire because in his political column 2 weeks ago he accused them of “conniving with criminals in gutter journalism”. Serves him right...

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Welcome aboard - Tom Levitt

Yes, it seems that Tom Levitt is very interested in what's being said about him. So much so that he's subscribed to the blog's email subscription!

Mr Levitt should consider that he has full right of reply on anything we publish, but we can't see him taking up the offer somehow.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Levitt's expenses totals - year by year

We've produced an online spreadsheet of Levitt's previous expenses claim totals, from the data which is available from the Houses of Parliament website. It makes interesting reading and can be found below.

Looking at the postage and stationary totals for the last published year, you might think Levitt has made significant savings, but then you'll also notice a new category "communications allowance". This was a controversial addition to allowances in 2007, allowing £10,000 per annum to be spent "to assist in the work of communication with the public on parliamentary business". You'll see that Levitt has overspent somewhat, although the rules permit transferring funds from Incidental Expenses (office costs) to this category.

We've also added a column at the end of the sheet to illustrate the increase on the last year for selected items.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

There's none more blind...

Classic quote from Levitt's 'facebook status reader' on his homepage:

the party leaders' plans for dealing with expenses are having a welcome and calming effect.

Who is he kidding? Has he even seen the comments on his own website, or is he currently residing in his flat in Lambeth (paid for by us) and reflecting on the ambience there?

High Peak people are *very* angry

The media has been reporting such epithets all week long, but a taster for the anger can be sampled in the comments left underneath Tom Levitt's confessional* on his website:

I am now at the point where i dont ever want to vote again as it doesnt matter want you say or offer you are in it for you and you alone.

you make the whole expenses thing sound like your all amateurs and dont know what your doing with your own papaerwork so how can you run a country

why hasn't your voting record been strongly in favour of transparency? See:

I find your aatempts to defend the indefensible quite breathtaking. this is the first time I have been driven to comment but I feel as if I have been taken for a ride by MPs who appear at best to have been content to let the status quo prevail

I understand that you employ your wife as your Parliamentary Assistant.Is she the best person you could have got for the job or is this nepotism?

Oh dear, there is no other piece on Levitt's website which has received such a response. Indeed, by comparison, it's hard to find so many comments on local newspaper websites on any topic you choose to mention. If this is a sample of the ire being aimed at Tom, he may need protecting at his next 'surgery'.

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Levitt's in trouble...

At least according to Gordon Brown he should be.

Whilst I have been diligent I have not been perfect. A few years ago I claimed more on my mortgage than I was entitled to.

This being the case, Levitt must never be able to stand as a Labour candidate again, and if he's to do the decent thing, he must resign as soon as possible.

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Monday, 18 May 2009

What the papers said

We thought we'd prepare a little digest of local press attention regarding Levitt's expenses in the recent past. So here goes:

The Glossop Advertiser took a look at Tom's expenses for the year 2005/2006 back in November 2006, when it was revealed he had claimed nearly £140,000. Of that, £16,977 was claimed for his second home, £74,262 for staff salaries (one full-time and 3 part-time assistants), £21,650 for office costs, £12,044 for postage and £4,417 for stationary, as well as £9,031 for travel expenses. The headline? 'MPs expenses are 85% below cap' - the calm before the storm?.

12 months later in 2007 the Glossop Advertiser returns again placing him in the Top 10 (actually, he was 8th). For 2006/2007, the total was now £168,660, and in hindsight, the article makes an interesting and no doubt worrying comparison for Levitt by pointing out the top claimant was the Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik. However, the article does not go into detail beyond the fact that he claimed a combined £31,615 for mail and stationary, doubling the total for the previous year.

Also focusing on Tom this month was the Buxton Advertiser, pointing out that the increase on last year's total bill for the taxpayer was £29,103. Again, the mail bill is the main focus, with Levitt pointing out it's high because he likes to communicate with his constituents. The provided the following details about all of the expenses claimed:

London Accommodation - 20,310
Office running costs - 23,403
Staff - 80,085
Members travel - 11,842
Staff travel - 475
Stationery - 7,915
Postage - 23,700
Computer Equip - 930
Total - 168,660

Finally, the Buxton Advertiser compares Levitt with three other local MPs - Charlotte Atkins, Patrick McLoughlin and Nicholas Winterton - and finds that he comes top of the list.

The Glossop Advertiser was back on Tom's case in January 2008 to point out that Levitt was reported to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards about the latter bill. Though Levitt was quick to trumpet that he had been cleared, current events must mean that he's worried it will be looked at again. However, the paper wasn't done with Tom yet, and in February 2008 it looked at the issue of his wife's wages. The article also revealed Levitt claimed £80,085 in staff costs and £7,725 for travel.

Much more recently, in April this year, The Derbyshire Times referred to Levitt as 'the most expensive Derbyshire MP', ranking at 48th in the country for his claims for the year 2007/2008. Levitt's breakdown is given as the following - £164,620 in total, costs of £22,450 for his second home, £14,287 for travel expenses, of which £2,955 was claimed against the costs of 22 journeys taken by his wife.

No doubt there'll be much more press attention in the coming weeks, especially given Levitt's admission yesterday* that he claimed more than he was entitled for mortgage costs.

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Levitt gets his response in first...

Before we an even start work on the blog, Levitt has decided to do some confessing early, and has already posted some details about his expenses on his website*, provisionally dated tomorrow.

We'd like to think this was in response to our initiative in starting this site, but it may be more to do with the fact that something else is going on. That remains to be seen, but it may be enlightening to start with Levitt's comments only 1 week ago** on the whole MP's expenses affair, which you can read below:
It seems everyone is talking about MPs’ expenses again. Those who gave more details or explanations to the authorities than they needed to, up to 5 years ago, are being pilloried. Claims which were never even paid are being held up as examples of bad practice. And the once proud Daily Telegraph has connived with criminals at the lowest levels of cheque book gutter journalism.

Changes in the rules are needed, everyone agrees. Some have been made and more are in the pipeline. The stories doing the rounds are in no way typical. But if the press does not want to talk about our policies, we must be getting them right. That is what really matters at this challenging time for the economy.
Aggressive and dismissive are two words that spring to mind upon reading Tom's column from last week. But as someone once said, a week is a long time in politics, and below you can read the rather fuller and detailed confessional statement Levitt has published only 1 week later:
I wanted to celebrate ten years of the minimum wage this week but events have clearly overtaken me. The MP expenses row raises three questions: are the rules adequate? Were they properly enforced? Did MPs abide by those rules?

The answer to all three is clearly ‘no.’

The rules have been tightened twice since the years to which current revelations refer. They are already being reviewed again by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The enforcement of the rules has clearly been pathetic. And adherence to them was in some cases poor. As a former member of the Standards committee, I know that we punished MPs for less than some of the offences that have been described. In other cases there is more smoke than fire.

Let me set out my own situation.

I have not received a penny of expenses in respect of my Buxton home. My salary is £64,766, about the same as a deputy head teacher in a medium sized comprehensive school. I have a 40-year old flat in Lambeth on which the rules entitle me to claim legitimate and necessary second home expenses. This includes the interest paid on my mortgage (but not capital repayments). My current mortgage interest claim has fallen to under £400 per month due to the falling interest rates. My other expenditure has been proportionate and legitimate: I have no moat, chandelier, garden or sauna. Some of my furniture is second hand and I have never ‘flipped’ the designation of my first and second homes.

Whilst I have been diligent I have not been perfect. A few years ago I claimed more on my mortgage than I was entitled to. This was because I had calculated that more of my mortgage payment was made up of interest than it was. I immediately made arrangements to pay back the excess over six months and this was done.

You may have seen a Sunday Times graphic on 17 May featuring the ‘20 most expensive MPs over the last four years’. I appear on this list at 8, though several of the colleagues listed below me differ from my total by less than 1%. There is no suggestion in the paper that this spending is illegitimate and it is all within the budget theoretically allowed. Had I not had a member of staff take maternity leave in 2008 I might not have appeared on the list at all, as maternity cover is paid over and above my staffing budget. You can see a breakdown of these expenses at

I want to see full disclosure of our detailed expenses and Parliament will do this in June. But that is not good enough. I will be posting details of the claims I made in the period covered by the recent disclosures, month by month, on my web site This will happen in the next ten days.

MPs generally are neither criminals nor fools; but we are all human and therefore fallible. Parliament has lost people’s trust and we need to win it back. We must not return to only having rich people willing to serve in politics. My job is to try to make the lives of ordinary people better and that’s all. I am proud to be working over 60 hours each week to serve the needs of my High Peak constituents.
Now there's a lot of info in there, which no doubt is already being digested by a lot of people - perhaps even Telegraph journalists. He's even told us he has claimed more on his mortgage than he was entitled to.

Even if the Telegraph doesn't run with it at some point, we will be back to this info later, along with some context that can be gleamed from the Internet. 

Is it me or is it getting hot in here?

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab
**when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

Friday, 15 May 2009

We interrupt this programme...

Appearing here soon, a new regular blog featuring details of the MP for High Peak - Tom Levitt - and perhaps sooner or later, details of his expenses claims...