Taking a look at Rochdale Observer's supposedly actionable coverage of PR Paul Rowen MP's "bananas" allowances claims HERE we've decided to give the poor things some pointers. They may have their NCTJ certificates framed on the wall but they need to get some fire in their belly if they are to best the Beast of Deeplish and his cronies:
Looking at accounts submitted by Rochdale Lib Dems in conjunction with Mr Rowen's claims we find some 'discrepancies', shall we say, or perhaps 'points of interest' would be a better form of words at this stage?
It appears from these that in the first instance in 2003 and 2004 and 2005 it was the Rochdale Lib Dem party who rented the Drake Street offices from Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited. They were paying a nominal £600 I believe, something like that, in 03 and 04. But it was support in kind I believe and cash did not pass from the party to the owners.
In 2005 the amount increased to £2000 which is 333% of the previous. But as MP Rowen actually paid the party - according to these accounts, which are available on the Electoral Commission website - almost 666% or the number of the beast (!) of the previous rent. Nearly £4000.
Of course this was for a part not a full year. And there's more. Looking elsewhere on the Electoral commission website Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited apparently made a political donation to the party that year which was about 90% of the rent they were actually shown as having been paid by the party.
There was also quite a substantial payment or rebate in respect of this property from the Lib Dem run Townhall in the same year - also accruing - according to their own accounts - to the local Lib Dem party.
PR Paul Rowen MP may have changed these arrangements in some way or other at some time or other. Using some expert or other. It is hard to know. The local party have stopped submitting their accounts. And there have apparently been no donations since the run up to and immediate aftermath of the 2005 election.
How is the space and time divided between the MP's constituency business and the local party's business? And also both the MP and the political party's campaigning activity. The tax payer must not and must be seen to not pay for any party political activity and any activity at other than a parliamentary level. In other words the taxpayer should not be paying for local government level activity either. Even if it is casework.
And it's not just the premises. How is staff time carefully tracked and allocated? If some of them or indeed all of them are doing some political work and some constituency work how is that tracked, recorded and accounted for?
Presumably if a staff member earns £40,000 and does 50% politics and 50% casework then the taxpayer must only pay for the latter? And it really doesn't matter how many hours in the 100% from my point of view. Beyond some de minimis volunteering that we might accept.
It actually explains in those official audited accounts how PR Paul Rowen is going to take over the funding of 1.5 political staffers using taxpayers money so that the local party no longer have to pay anything. Which sounds like a gross abuse to me.
PR Paul Rowen MP also seems to have what is called a "Printing Society" (like John Leech) which is not a charity and not a company. An unaccountable black box rather like those unaccountable black boxes all over the MPs paperwork, still hiding some of their secrets.
Going back to the suspicious tenancy with Rochdale Reform Buildings Limited (RRBL), whether this is direct or via the Lib Dem party, you report that 30% of the shares in RRBL are owned by the local party.
That is interesting. Does that mean the party itself? Or does it mean individual members? Does it mean councillors? Ex-councillors? The ex MP Cyril Smith perhaps? Other old stagers? And just who owns the other 70% then?
And what other property do these people own in the town? There's a shop/office downstairs in this Drake Street building for starters. But do they own any other buildings? And where is their property owning activity accounted for?
Should the Rochdale Observer not get serious on all this and delve far deeper than these redacted papers Mr Rowen has volunteered, and even those now added to the government site?
On the face of it this MP has a number of humorous claims like the crooked yellow banana and a knob of butter and various bar bills and some TV services at £9.99 which unfortunately remind me of Mrs Jacquie Smith's husband. But also the papers show a whole load of taxpayers money finding its way into party funds.
The Obbie should either clear this MP of all wrong doing and let him face the people on his work rate - which from where I'm sitting looks to be rather feeble anyway - or hang him out to dry and campaign for him to be de-selected or re-called or more simply rejected by the people at the next election.