Sunday, May 23, 2010

START in Westminster: MP Wife Worker Plotted £1 Million Sideline

Bedfordshire on Sunday is hardly the most hard-hitting investigative organ in the country, and let's face it few local and regional papers have teeth these days, more toothy grins, but they've followed their story on a new Nadine Dorries alleged expenses irregularity story involving a former employee - smeared by the Mum-P in other publications though not here - with another reflecting a general shift in mood at Westminster.

Eve Burt the Senior Assistant to her husband-MP the Tory Alistair Burt has had the plug pulled on a proposed lucrative sideline. Under her business plan she, and a sidekick who also works for the hubby, would have offered a recruitment and screening service at £2,500 a lob for parliamentary staff for new Tory MPs.

Our friends at Political Scrapbook were very sniffy about all this a couple of days ago. We think it's great! Not sure Eve Burt has _any_ qualifications at all. Shorthand and typing perhaps. Certainly no tedious degree or Institute of Personnel Management type ticket. But she's been working at the Houses of Parliament for 27 years for goodness sake! And why should she not cash in? It's a glorious business concept. More not less so now the public expect "standards".

With 300-400 new jobs for the new Tory MPs intake up for grabs, on the taxpayers' payroll, plus any political appointments, plus any replacements for existing Tory MPs - let's say 200 more, this is a total market of perhaps £1.5 Million and hardly small beer. Subtract 100 for friends and family appointments allowed under the still lax rules - make them all go through Eve we say - and you're still looking at £1 M to £1.25 M.

Here are extracts from the Bedfordshire on Sunday report:

They were offering members a package for £2,500 (plus VAT) for full support in recruiting and managing all of the MPs’ staff.
.. snip ..
‘The payment of this service from Parliamentary allowances has been approved by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority; who retain the right to audit our activities at any time.’ Mrs Burt said that they had been working on the business for a number of months and had been in discussion with the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which was happy with it.
However, this week, the website went live but within days, a message appeared stating: ‘Due to circumstances beyond our control Westminster START is unable to continue operating.
‘We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause; and we will update the website with further details in due course.’ Mrs Burt said: “Somebody suggested that there may be a compliance problem. We haven’t done anything wrong.
“It was brought to our attention that there was a perception that the business may not be appropriate and that there was something wrong with it.
“We were not prepared to damage our party’s reputation so have pulled the plug on it.
“We were trying to do something that made things easier for people.” She couldn’t confirm who had raised the issue but said it was from ‘within the party’.
She added: “We don’t have any plans to revisit the business.
“If someone thinks that it might not be right then it might not be, even if it is.
“It hasn’t cost us anything and was a small idea.”
Mrs Burt was going to work part-time for Westminster START and for her husband Alistair and says she is now ‘reviewing’ this but will continue in her position as his assistant.

Wouldn't say a potential £1 M plus business was necessarily a small idea. And it has the sort of five-page website a Tory MP might charge the people £10,000 for. Would say even the most rudimentary recruitment, selection and screening service would be better than the nepotism and insider-dealing that goes before. Just ask Nadine Dorries! And her family of under-qualified and overpaid employees.

SERIOUSLY: the mother of parliaments which includes the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act, the Disability Discrimination Act, and the National Minimum Wage amongst its achievements should be ashamed of the informal, erratic, nepotistic, otherwise corrupt and even unpaid staffing practices of our MPs.

Eve Burt's Westminster START is probably not the answer. But Nadine Dorries Mum-P's "jobs for the girls" most certainly isn't. Any day now we'll no doubt hear some cock and bull about why the Mum-P has ceased her twittery and bloggery and webbery. We can hardly wait.

UPDATE 2AM: It's a bit ambiguous, but it's possible this £2500 plus VAT is per MP not per worker. Possibly just £750,000 plus VAT per annum gross then. But even that's £3.75 Million gross potential over five years if charged annually. Clearly, CLEARLY, parliamentary staff should be employed under Equal Opps and Anti Racism laws by the authorities and constituency staff should also be subject to full advertising.

COMING SOON: Post explaining the danger MPs face in employing family, close friends and past or present business associates - even if this is apparently allowed by the IPSA guidance. Doh! It offends the other rules and principles in many, most if not all cases.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of MPs and more particularly, ex-MPs. Now that Paul Rowen is no longer an MP does it mean he will have to give back his envelope stuffing machine and various other paraphernalia that he claimed for while he was MP for Rochdale? Surely if he claimed for them in his capacity as an MP, he should now return them as he is no longer an MP. It would not be right, would it, for the envelope stuffing machine to remain in Rochdale Lib Dem Headquarters now he is out of parliament?

Chris Paul said...

According to Rowen's returns 70% of this stuffing machine was paid for by "the local party" insofar as it's possible to distinguish the two streams of money. Word is the think is being re-purposed to stuff pizza crusts and moved to Dave Hennigan's squalid bedsit.