Monday, 11 May 2009

Hazel Blears in Imperial Court wheeze - *yawn*

User Kennington on Twitter posted a link from the Daily Fail to suggest that Hazel Blears is in trouble for not paying tax on a flat that she sold in Imperial Court. I'm bored by the whole MPs expenses row now so I'm not going to say any more except that I think that MPs' wages should stay in line with those of their Civil Service counterparts. There are some MPs who work jolly hard for their constituents, and who can be admired by all irrespective of their political party eg. the totally fabulous, very hard working and thoroughly independent Kate Hoey! Anyhow, raising MP salaries would allow the property allowances system to be tightened up so that the rules could not be bent in such a ridiculous fashion.

If you came here looking for information about Hazel Blears' Imperial Court property, you might be interested in a post I wrote about Alisdair Darling's Imperial Court flat and the reason that I don't think the flats are what I'd describe as "luxury" by any means...

The point of real interest in the Daily Fail article is the part that states "a source close to [Blears]insisted the sale was not to do with making money, but because the flat stood on a busy road and the ‘sirens at night were keeping her awake’." I'm not concerned with whether or not the sirens were the reason for the property sale. In any case, Blears is rather fortunate to be privileged enough just to "move" due to the property being too noisy. The frequency and noise levels of emergency sirens (mostly police, but some ambulances) on Kennington Road and Kennington Park Road is frequently noted by residents. Obviously living in the middle of a busy capital city, one should expect some noise, but because of where Kennington is situated between Kennington Road, Brixton and Walworth police stations, we do get more than our fair share of siren noise. Is it really necessary to have sirens on late at night when the roads tend to be empty? I'd encourage more MPs to actually work to resolve the noise issue as far as possible (particularly at night) than move house.

Does anybody else find the noise disturbing in SE11? I imagine that residents who live in SE1 near to the SE11 border on Albert Embankment must suffer from ambulance noise as well.

Apologies, I'm a bit over-active at the moment with so much SE11 news, so anybody that has signed up to the email list will receive a rather large bumper crop of posts today!


Mark L said...

I have to agree with you - at least in part. I do think we need to pay our MPs a salary that reflects their role - and MPs who are from outside London do need accomodation and travel expenses. However there are situations where MPs appear to have been playing the system for personal gain, which I strongly disagree with. 'out of town' MPs should be in furnished rented accommodation - it's what most private firms do. It's a much 'cleaner' way of doing things - furnishings and maintenance are the responsibility of the landlord / management company. No furnishings are retained by the MP, and there's less scope for personal enrichment.

By the way, I would disagree with your comments on Kate, at least from my personal interactions with her. Of the two times I've written to her, I've had one letter receive a tardy reply that somewhat missed the point, and another received no reply whatsoever. I'd also personally disagree with her involvement in the Countryside Alliance... Aside from my disagreeing with foxhunting, I'm not entirely sure how that role helps her constituents.

Three wheeled one said...

Mark, I obviously agree that playing the system is wrong, but I do think that there are a number of instances of MPs who have played the system in such a way that they've not broken any rules. If that's the case, it's the rules that need to be fixed, since they were so bendy in the first place!

I also agree that it's quite a good idea to consider furnished, rented accommodation for out of town MPs, but I'd consider having the government owning the stock of housing and passing it from one MP to another, rather than giving vast sums to private landlords. I think that less would then be spent on the housing (although I acknowledge that furnishing would need to take place, but a budget could be allocated).

One of the reasons that I run this blog is to enable local civic discussion that is just not happening with the wider public so I'm happy to see your disagreement with me on Kate. I'm ambivalent about her role with the Countryside Alliance, but their headquarters is in the constituency. I am, however, extremely impressed by her track record on issues in Zimbabwe. More than those though, I've just been very impressed to see her at small local community events, at which most MPs wouldn't bother to show up!

Mark L said...

I suspect we could debate expenses for a while :)

I think where people have clearly played the rules to significant personal financial gain (flipping of homes, etc); regardless of whether or not their actions were strictly within the rules or not, it doesn't exactly reflect well on the person's character.

It would be very hard to devise a set of rules that aren't going to leave MPs open to scandal (justified or otherwise) - government-owned properties would eventually require renovation, the cost of which would likely make headlines, whilst privately rented accomodation could create opportunity for nepotistic arrangements (renting from family etc) or backhanders - at the end you do ultimately need to place some trust in people to be sensible and honest.

Although as a friend pointed out to me today, there are plenty of reasons to haul MPs over the coals and a couple of thousand pounds in expenses is a comparably small matter compared to some.

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