Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Levitt prays for the 'last word' on expenses

Tom Levitt has today published a press release* (which is usually regurgitated as his weekly column) entitled 'Expenses the final word?'. Unfortunately for him, it still leaves some questions about the exact position. We'll go through some of his words (in italics) with our observations (in bold).

Gone is the do-what-you-like atmosphere which allowed MPs, including myself, to claim for things which the public found unreasonable. Note the use of the the word 'public', Levitt seems to be suggesting it's not actually unreasonable, it's just that those who take the view that it is outnumber him in thinking so. How very like Tony Blair!

Let me be clear about my record: I was guided by the law, the rules of Parliament, professional advice and my conscience at all times. All of which were found wanting - they write the rules, they create the law and they want us to forgive them for taking full advantage of it.

The auditors under Sir Thomas Legg disallowed three claims that I had made:

- the inadvertent claiming of 12 months (instead of 10) Council Tax on my London flat for two years, £412 (revealed and paid back last May). This simply isn't true - Legg's report contains no mention of the Council Tax, that was spotted by this blog last June, Levitt only repaying it when the press picked up our story. This was the only money that had been repaid last Thursday.

- a piece of furniture, allowed in 2005 but deemed to have been extravagant in 2009, £389 (revealed last October). That piece of furniture was a sofa bed which had cost us £1599, and which Legg considered was too extravagant to the tune of £389. The £389 had not been repaid by Levitt up until last Thursday.

- a miscalculation of mortgage interest over five years (confirmed in last week’s Legg report) of net £390.95. Wrong again: the mortgage interest was for 2004, 2005 & 2006 (3 years), and the amount outstanding was £800.95 as of last Thursday (nothing repaid then).

All of these sums have now been paid back; nothing is outstanding. We'll have to take Tom's word for it, some proof would be nice given that he has such a poor record of repaying the money that is owed.

We must move quickly to put these issues behind us. But not until May eh, Tom? Not until you're eligible for your massive golden handshake?

Now it could be that Tom is about to get his wish: this may indeed be the last word about Tom Levitt's expenses, given the lack of info likely to be available in future. But there is the whole question of what it is that Levitt will get up to next. Will he go back to teaching? Will he spread the good word about charities? Will he become an ambassador for Nestlé, a company with which he has been huddling in the past (now there's a story in there somewhere...)? Or perhaps Gordon Brown will reward him for his sycophancy by making him a peer of the realm? Lord Buxton anyone?

If this is the end, then keep watching this blog. Depending upon what follows, something else may follow it. We'll be watching...

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

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