Expenses: It’s back to exposing the Cabinet again

Expenses: It’s back to exposing the Cabinet again


Will this re-ignite the anger?

After a period when the Telegraph’s daily revelations about MPs expenses were starting to get a bit routine the paper has turned once again to the detailed affairs of the cabinet – folk you would think would have the political skills to know better.

Thus the main lead in the Telegraph this morning looks as though it could have real damage on ministers beyond the standard outrage of what they and other MPs have been claiming in expenses.

For one of the most persistent attacks on the government’s taxation policies is that it had made the process so complicated that it is very hard for ordinary tax-payers to complete their returns without professional advice.

As the paper reports: “Under HM Revenue and Customs rules, most people are not allowed to claim the cost of employing an accountant to fill in a self-assessment tax form as a legitimate business expense…MPs’ use of the separate allowance scheme for office costs enables them to claim tens of thousands of pounds from public funds every year..Several of the Cabinet ministers who claimed for accountants have already faced allegations that they sought to manipulate the expenses system for personal gain.”

It gets worse for Alistair Darling for the Telegraph goes on:-

“In total, the taxpayer has spent more than £11,000 on accountants for Cabinet ministers. A bill submitted by Mr Darling in February, 2008, included the cost of receiving tax advice for “the treatment of rental expenses against income”. During 2007, Mr Darling rented out his London flat after becoming Chancellor and moving into a grace-and-favour apartment..In total, the Chancellor claimed more than £1,400 for accountancy bills in two years.”

The renewed look at the Cabient could start to get really serious. It’s one thing for back-benchers to be threatened with de-selection but we are in totally different territory when we find out things that the man who so desperately wants Brown’s job, Ed Balls, put in a claim for “two Remembrance Sunday poppy wreaths”. It was rejected.

This shows a political ineptness that could cost Balls dear – and makes my bet that he’ll lose his seat at the general election look even better.

His wife, Yvette Cooper, meanwhile, was among eight ministers who got the tax-payer to pay for their digital cameras. Jacqui Smith’s husband has a tax-payer funded £240 IPhone….and so on and so on.

General Election betting: All Markets

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Mike Smithson

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