Last week, when blogging about UK politics, I said:
I reckon there’s something wrong with all expenses over £100,000. Forget second home, that’s a second flipping salary, that is.
But that was before I came across this Monday’s findings of the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA - a group campaining for better spending of UK taxes). And I thought UK politics was bad.
The TPA somehow got their eager campaigning hands on a leaked EU document called the Galvin Report (download here), which, it says:
revealed so many examples of poor financial controls, dubious practices and outright abuse of taxpayers’ money that it was kept secret from the public, and only a handful of MPs were allowed to see it on the condition that its contents were never revealed.
But the crux of the TPA’s findings - which should help dear old Jacqui Smith (UK Home Secretary) sleep better at night - is the following:
Over and above their salaries an MEP can personally earn a further £1 million during a typical Parliamentary term through their generous allowances and expenses
The report was based on a sample of 167 payments, out of a total of 4686, made in October 2004. And I’m going to assume - with, I grant you, no proof what so ever - that as the report has only just been published, repercussions have been somewhat lacking - and things have only got worse.
But there’s more. Because, it seems, £1 million might not cover quite as much glass and mussels as an MEP might like, the TPA also state that MEPs can expect a 47 per cent pay rise after this June’s elections; British MEPs could soon earn a ‘take-home’ salery of £68,801.
By george. I want tips! What sneaky tricks are these MEPs resorting to? I want to take notes in order to make the most of my future expenses-fuelled career as a journalist… (Difference being that I’ll be earning approximately £54,801 less than a British MEP.)
Thanks to the report, I now know that - if one wants to make the most of one’s expenses - one should claim money for fictional assistants, of which no record exists. And pay any assistants that do exist up to 20 times their salary - just to use up the full allowance. I should also, if so inclined, claim money for companies who have done absolutely no work for me.
This, it transpires, works for European Parliament members. I have a feeling it won’t work quite as well for a trainee journo.
Still, prior to this discovery I was feeling guilty about my two EU-expenses-paid trips to Brussels. I must admit, I feel a tad better now.