Monday, 21 December 2009

Levitt - already breaking the new rules

Released alongside the expenses details for the year 2008-2009 were details for the first quarter of 2009-2010, under the renamed Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure allowance (PAAE).

This PDF contains the claim forms for April, May and June 2009, which were submitted on 23rd June 2009. In his weekly column two weeks earlier* (entitled 'Humility', without a trace of irony), Levitt had spoken of MPs "indulgences in an anarchic system of spending rules (sic)". Yet the PDF shows that Levitt had not grasped the now simplified expenses rules at all. The PAAE files contain a letter from the Fees Office reminding Levitt of said rules:

Effective from 20 May Members may now only use PAAE to claim rent, including ground rent, hotel accommodation, overnight subsistence, mortgage interest ... council tax, service charges, utility bills ..., insurance.

Therefore, we can no longer reimburse you for Broadband, garage rental and cleaning charges. Your claims have been reduced accordingly.

Levitt had overclaimed by £335. We'll remind Tom of his words in his column of 1st June** (entitled 'restoring trust in politics') - "Let me repeat that where the law has been broken or rules disobeyed then appropriate punishment should follow". In his column of 18th May 2009*** (entitled 'Statement on MPs' Expenses'), Tom made the following statement:

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.
Levitt clearly felt so strongly about winning that trust back that just over a month later, he was submitting illegitimate claims. It must be his fallibility - after all, he's only human.

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

'Hungry' Tom Levitt and the MPs trough

One of the more interesting aspects of the Additional Cost Allowance claim documents released the other week is some of the correspondence between Tom Levitt and the Fees office.

On page 27 of the PDF, Levitt asks for guidance from the Fees Office in relation to his claims for food. Levitt states that for the year 2006-2007, he used a formula he has devised himself of claiming £18 for each day the House of Commons was in session. However, Levitt has convinced himself that this is insufficient, and raised in to £25 per 'sitting day' from April of 2008. Noting that £30 per day has been 'mentioned', he is arguably keen to find out if he can claim even more.

In any case, Levitt claimed £3750 for food in the year 2008-2009. This equates to £72 per week over 52 weeks of the year, or £10 each day (never mind 'sitting days').

But what makes Levitt's figures even more scandalous is the fact that the Houses of Parliament has numerous cafes, bars and restaurants that are already subsidised by the taxpayer. In February 2008, the Daily Mail reported that MPs "can enjoy three-course meals plus coffee for as little as £10.55", with this subsidy amounting to £13,041 each day. Yes, you read that right: MPs can claim expenses to pay for their meals which are already subsidised by us in order to keep the cost down.

Pigs with their snouts in the trough indeed...

Levitt - Ready, Steady, Crook!

We thought we'd walk you through a pictorial selection of Tom Levitt's Additional Cost Allowance claims, specifically those relating to his kitchen. So here we go.

First up is a claim for a cooker hob, specifically a Neff T1323X0 Ceramic Hob in Black. Teresa bought this in June 2008, a bargain at £449, but such a costly item clearly needs a warranty, and Mrs Levitt decided to take out 5 year cover for this item at the cost of £49.

6 days later in July, Teresa ordered a sink, this time a Blanco Classic 6S. This item costs £350, and unlike the one in the picture it had a left hand sink.

No modern kitchen is complete without a microwave, and Teresa's conscience clearly dictated she economise with a Panasonic NNE255, a snip at £59.

The last items on this little spree were a Microplane Fine Grater (£18) and John Lewis' own Soft Grip General Purpose Scissors (£13.50).

In March this year, the Levitt's completely refurbished their kitchen. They spent £189 on a Baumatic BT6-3GL cooker hood.

Strangely, there are no claims for a cooker itself, but the list of items claimed to re-style their kitchen is very long (it can be found on page 86 on the PDF) and they charged the taxpayer £5820.

When you're considering all this, keep in mind that the Fees office considered that all of these items were costs "wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of performing Parliamentary duties", as Tom is always keen to point out.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Tom Levitt's Barclays Premier account

One interesting thing that's worth noting from the PDF containing Tom Levitt's expense claims are the copies of bank statements. Whilst most of the details have been redacted, it's not these that interest us anyway. The statements make it clear that Tom and his wife Teresa have a 'Premier' account with Barclays.

If you pop along to the Barclays website for this account, you have to meet one of the following criteria to obtain this type of account:

1. Have an income of £100,000+, or
2. Have an income of £60,000+ if you are less than 35 years old or hold a business relationship with Barclays, or
3. Have £50,000+ to save and invest

Number 2 is clearly ruled out on grounds of Levitt's age. We think that number 3 is the most likely criteria that Levitt has used to get this account - but who knows, perhaps he has other (undisclosed) interests which mean he earns more than £100,000 each year?

Levitt's claims: 2008-2009 ACA claims

We've now updated our spreadsheet of Tom Levitt's expenses claims to take into account the latest figures released for his 2008-2009 claims. The spreadsheet can be found online at this link.

Under the general headings, the official total claimed by Levitt for this period was £20,522.58. However, we have carefully gone through the PDF that contains the details of his claims and can only seem to reconcile the figure of £20,526.18, which is £3.60 more than the official total.

Therefore, using our figures, these are the amounts claimed by Levitt for the financial year 2008-2009 under the Additional Costs Allowance:

Mortgage - £5,952.22
Food - £3,750.00
Utilities - £847.63
Council Tax - £1,093.64
Telephone & Comms - £250.00
Cleaning - £703.00
Service/maintenance - £1,136.67
Repairs/Insurance/Security - £286.96

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

Bedding - £82.08
Ceramic Hob, Sink Kit, Microwave - £938.50
TV Licence - £139.50
Kitchen utensils - £178.00
Garage rental - £414.00
Valance - £15.99
Low energy light bulbs - £23.97
Cooker hood - £189.00
Kitchen refurbishment - £5,820.00
Hair clippers - £24.99

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Buxton Advertiser slams Levitt over latest expenses revelations

The Buxton Advertiser were this week the only local newspaper to take up the issue of the latest revelations about Tom Levitt's 2008/2009 expenses claims. You may remember that the revelations last week came too late for the newspapers.

Journalist Michael Broomhead - who previously seemed to be letting Levitt off lightly regarding the Capital Gains Tax issue - has now laid into him, choosing to highlight his smaller claims for hair clippers (£24.99) and a wine glass (£21.50), and contrasting this with the hardship being suffered by many at this time of year.

Now just over a week ago, we did promise a fuller analysis. Suffice to say we're working on it, and will be back shortly...

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Levitt- shop 'til you drop

It's that time of year again - yes, more revelations about expenses claims is breaking news today. And Tom Levitt has really done himself proud.

A fuller analysis of the revelations today will have to wait, but in the meantime, here are a few tidbits:
  • Levitt claimed £938.50 for a ceramic hob, sink kit and other items from John Lewis in June 2008.
  • Levitt claimed £24.99 for 'hair clippers' in July 2008, but his claim was refused by the fees office, as it was felt it was a "personal item and not a cost wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of performing your Parliamentary duties"
  • Levitt claimed £5820.00 in March 2009 to refurbish the Kitchen in his London flat. In a letter to the fees office, he explained the existing kitchen consisted of "1970s Kitchen storage units which need replacing. The goods have been obtained at a substantial discount", thank god...
You can view the claims and associated documents in this PDF. There'll be more news and analysis as we get it