Most people in the Borough of Scarborough are probably familiar with the expenses of the local MP, but for those unfamiliar with Conservative Whip Robert Goodwill’s expenses, I will give a little more information.
In 2000, whilst Conservative MEP for the Yorkshire and the Humber region, Robert Goodwill MEP sparked controversy when he was quoted thus:
“I fly from Leeds/Bradford to Brussels and we get a set fee of around £500, but if I buy a cheaper ticket, economy class for about £160 and £250, I can pocket the difference and, as a capitalist, also as a British Conservative, I see it as a challenge to buy cheap tickets and make some profit on the system“
The Conservative Party responded, condemning his actions:
“The party does not endorse the fiddling of expenses or the impression given that the system should be made available for personal profit“
Wikipedia reports the row over Goodwill’s MEP expenses erupted again during a 2010 General Election debate at Whitby Community College. Goodwill claimed the quote was nonsense. In 2000, Goodwill generously decided to give £2,000 to good causes, shortly after he’d sparked controversy after revealing that he’d profited on his expenses to his constituents.
Then there was also the little matter of Goodwill topping the list of MPs who claimed Petty Cash during 2007/8. Goodwill submitted 13 monthly Petty Cash claims of £250 instead of the usual 12 during 2007/8. £250 is the maximum you can claim per month. Goodwill said he’d made a mistake with his expenses; he should only have claimed the maximum of £3,000 and reportedly paid the money back.
A quick look at his 2011/12 expenses yielded another error with Goodwill’s expense claims. On 18/05/2011 Goodwill made a claim for £756.38 for ‘Council Tax & BBC’. Just over a month later Goodwill claimed for £145.50 for a TV License. It seems Robert Goodwill may well be paying back more money due to this apparent double claim.
These amounts pale into insignificance when compared to his London accommodation expenses. Goodwill was elected to Parliament in 2005. In late March 2006, he bought a property for £295,000 in Pimlico. The cost to the tax payer for Stamp Duty and Legal Fees was £9,731.76, plus a £225 survey for the property. On top of these fees, Goodwill claimed for furnishing his new flat. There are numerous receipts in the old MPs expenses system for the furnishings, which total many thousands of pounds.
Goodwill agreed a £280,000 Five-Year Interest Only Fixed Rate Mortgage with HSBC. Looking at the two Parliamentary expenses systems, the monthly amount claimed for Interest Only was £1,165.32, which continued through until 20/05/2011.
Interestingly, there was no first monthly payment claimed in April or May 2006. Goodwill waited until March 2007 to submit a claim for his new mortgage, when he then claimed eleven months in one go. It seems that waiting for so long to make that claim possibly saved the tax payer a little bit of money. Hurray!
After the fixed term was over, Goodwill’s “Interest Only” mortgage plummeted due to the current economic climate. The new amount payable was £356.08 and this continued until the end of March 2012. During April 2012, Goodwill moved into a hotel for a month, at a cost £1,142 to the taxpayer.
May 2012 saw further changes with Goodwill moving into rented accommodation. He claimed a £180 admin fee and started claiming £1,451.67 a month for his new accommodation. His Register of Interests now shows that ‘RW Goodwill, Property Division.’ derives rental income from a property in London. No prizes for guessing which property.
Given that Goodwill doesn’t miss a trick with the expenses system, it is rather odd he hasn’t claimed for any removal expenses – the Parliamentary Standards Guidelines on expenses claims makes clear that he was able to claim for removal cost of his taxpayer-funded furnishings. Perhaps Goodwill moved just around the corner? Perhaps Goodwill’s new tenant has those taxpayer-funded furnishings?
No part of this arrangement seems favourable to the taxpayer. We’ve gone from paying £356.08 per month for Goodwill’s mortgage interest, to paying £1,451.67 for Goodwill’s monthly rental fee. And all because Goodwill wants to make a bit of profit on the system. What an ugly situation. At the very least Goodwill should be paying back the £10,000 Stamp Duty and Legal Fee monies to the taxpayer, as we’re the ones who’ve funded the purchase of his new business asset.
Given that the Conservative Party “does not endorse the fiddling of expenses“ and neither do they believe that “the system should be made available for personal profit”, I wonder if the Conservative Party will be condemning Goodwill’s actions yet again?
Article first posted to Real Whitby on February 6 2013.