After his car crash performance on Channel 4 News last night, when the frit career politician refused to debate with guests from other parties, our political editor, WALTER CRONXITE, finds that the local MP has also been less-than-forthcoming about his parliamentary expenses, too
Gavin Barwell has been breaking at least one of his first election promises for months – by failing himself to publish details of his parliamentary expenses.
The career politician, who was first elected as MP for Croydon Central in 2010, provides a clear illustration of his failure to be as good as his word on his own website.
Under a heading of “My expenses”, Barwell has a blank page with no details of his expenses claims.
This is a separate matter to his questionable accounting for his election expenses in 2015, at the time of the previous General Election, which was investigated by the Metropolitan Police but dropped for lack of evidence (even though Barwell had provided his own self-incriminating statement in his campaign memoir).
Inside Croydon can reveal that in the 12 months to May 2016 (the latest full year available), Barwell made expenses claims – all paid for out of public money – amounting to £28,396.81. This includes the costs of renting his office in his constituency, and even the £145.50 for a television licence.
That reimbursement figure paid to the MP is more than the salaries paid to many public service workers in Croydon, who have been on a strict pay squeeze since 2010, when Barwell and his Tory mates first began to impose their misfiring “austerity” measures on the nation.
For the past few months, Barwell has been pocketing a handsome ministerial salary of £96,375, thanks to parliamentary wage increases which the Tories waved through in 2015.
Back in 2010, when the scandal of MPs’ lavish expense claims were still headline news, Barwell made much of his being open and transparent in the way he might conduct himself if the people of Croydon (“My home town,” as Sussex-born Barwell likes to say) were to place their trust in the private school and Oxbridge-educated politician.
Barwell had good reason to fear the electorate’s distrust of politicians over matters such as expenses.
In the neighbouring constituency of Croydon South, residents were lumbered with Tricky Dicky Ottaway, a ruddy-faced old-school Conservative whose epitomised the sense of entitlement at public expense which had caused so much outrage.
When he was MP, Ottaway made sure that he pushed his snout into every available trough. It saw him paying wages to his own wife, claiming for a second home in London despite his constituency being just a short train ride from Victoria, and using tax-payers’ money to help to maintain the gardens of his lavish home in the Surrey stockbroker belt, while also forking out for a special bed purchased from Harrod’s.
Caught out by the Telegraph‘s 2009 investigation, Ottaway was forced to promise to publish his expense claims if he wanted to be re-selected by the local Conservative members. Once elected in 2010, Ottaway failed to fulfill that promise.
And that’s something which Barwell has done now, too.
Barwell’s squeeky clean good intentions in 2010 appear to have long been forgotten.
On his own website, he writes: “A promise I made before the Election…” referring to 2010, “… was that I would publish my expense claims and the supporting receipts so that constituents could see exactly what I was claiming. Below is a list of my claims from the last three months and at the foot of the list there is a link to older claims. You can click on ‘view receipt’ to open, in your browser, PDF copies of the receipts.”
Except Barwell’s expenses page is blank, and the view receipt link does not work.
Barwell also promised to publish his official MP’s diary online, too, so that his constituents could keep a check on what he was doing.
That, too, is a pledge which Barwell has failed to uphold.
One theory is that Barwell no longer has the expertise within his parliamentary and constituency offices, despite his employing six full-time and part-time staff, all paid for by the public.
Barwell’s gobby fac totem, Mario Creatura, was thought to be the staff member who maintained his digital presence, data-scraping campaign surveys and petitions for voters’ personal details for all he was worth (and all done at public expense, of course).
But after the 2015 election, Creatura, by now a councillor in Coulsdon, quit Barwell’s parliamentary office to take up a job in public relations for a brewer (insert organising piss-up joke here).
Soon after that, Barwell’s website has become a black hole as far as his expense claims are concerned.
All MPs’ expenses are now a matter of public record, updated regularly, through the parliamentary website. In 2010, Barwell was offering to do something extra for his constituents by publishing his own exes claims on his website, to make them more readily available.
The website MPsexpenses.info shows that in the 12-month period from May 2015 to April 2016, Barwell made 100 expenses claims, amounting to more than £28,000.
While his claims fluctuate from month to month, Barwell’s were generally below the average claims made by his 649 colleagues – largely because, as a London MP with a family home in Sanderstead, he has no need to claim for accommodation costs when parliament is sitting.
But compared to his MP neighbours, Barwell appears to run up bigger costs than others.
For the same 12-month accounting period, to May 2016, the MP for Lambeth South/Croydon North [delete to taste], Steve Reed OBE, claimed £24,559.40.
Such comparisons would be another reason why Barwell might have “forgotten” that election promise to publish his expenses.
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