This may well be fair

Andy Burnham is claiming £17,000 a year in expenses to rent a flat in London despite owning a property in the capital.

The favourite to win the Labour leadership has been receiving £1,449.98 each month for a flat in Kennington, southeast London since July 2012.

Mr Burnham, the shadow health secretary, also gains an income from renting a nearby two-bedroom flat in Kilner House, near and Kennington.

Because yes, he does need to have somewhere in London (and he’s not being exactly extravagant about it). And now the taxpayer, rightly or wrongly, won’t pay the mortgage on hte place he bought to provide that place.

So in detail it’s reasonable enough. He needs a place in London, that’s a job requirement, at it’s going to cost 15k to 20k to prvide that. Fair that his employer, us, should cough up. But that doesn’t really matter. Because the average person is going to look at this and shout “That stinks!”. And that’s what matters in politics, isn’t it? Perceptions, not details nor even reality.

36 thoughts on “This may well be fair”

  1. Would I be right in assuming that for anyone but an MP, provision of living accomodation by an employer, not an overnight stay on company business, would be taxed as a benefit in kind? If so, that’s the bit that stinks.

  2. Wouldn’t it just be delicious is his tenant turned out to be another MP whose rent was subsidised by the taxpayer?

  3. That’s not uncommon actually. Similar sorta professional level, about the same budget, looking in the same areas of London, likely to be at least on nodding aquaintance with each other?

  4. Actually, no, it wouldn’t be taxed as a benefit:

    Accommodation at the place of work is exempt if:

    it’s common to provide it for a particular type of job, eg vicars, soldiers or pub managers

    Or, MPs.

  5. KRL

    I’m guessing (never looked at it), but Isn’t the justification that an MP needs to be based for work in one location but also go and work in a second location. Whichever way round MPs choose that individually between their constituency and Westminster.

    Ie, both locations are work; as an employee; hence, one is his permanent work place, the other is temporary and for which he can claim for the travel (and hotel etc) expenses?

    btw, his constituency is Manchester (and not London).

    I agree – the flat he owns himself is simply an investment. It could be nay other type of investment, like a boat or a painting, it just happens to look like the one he stays in at his temporary work place.

  6. Geoffers

    Should that actually matter? Burnham is either paying interest, which offsets the rent, or he’s invested real equity (his own money) into it?

  7. Yep.

    They should have chosen a Parliament owned block of flats nopt paying rent back when.

    But there are more serious problems in the system, such as the repeated shredding of potential evidence – receipts – authorised by the Speaker. that was the stuff that led to the imprisonment of 6 MPs.

  8. I suggest folks have a little read about Andy Burnham’s history with his accommodation claims – they’re quite illuminating. How do you think he would have been able to buy a flat in the first place if we hadn’t paid the mortgage interest and renovation costs under the old rules? Now he coins in from that flat whilst renting another at our expense and lecturing us on the evils of capitalism. OK – letter of the law and all that – but it still stinks.

  9. Surreptitious Evil,
    That only applies for people whose accommodation is at their place of work; not a few miles away. The publican lives above the pub; the vicar next door to the church; the soldier on the barracks.

    The standard HMRC definition of a “permanent workplace” is somewhere you work for at least 40% of your job and for more than 24 months. The House of Commons clearly counts as a permanent workplace; whereas a constituency office is classed as a temporary workplace. Thus our MPs can claim travel to & from their constituencies, and they can claim living costs in their constituencies, but they can’t claim living costs in London. (Or at least that’s how it should be if they followed the same rules as everyone else.)

  10. Imagine you’re running a business and you need to put up 600 odd employees in London for several nights a week.

    You’re not going to rent an apartment for each of them, are you? You’re going to get some good rate at a hotel or even buy suitable accommodation yourself.

  11. Tim, bollocks. People find this offensive because if they had a flat & job in C London and tried this trick on their employer, they’d be fired.

  12. I reckon the best solution would be to buy up a hotel or two or three. Upgrade the security a bit due to the nutters/terrorists/spies/journalists issue – unlike most businesses renting a hotel, you would really need exclusive use, which is why ownership would be desirable. Folk can stay elsewhere in London if they prefer, family reasons etc, but not on taxpayer’s dime. I wouldn’t mind the authorities having to cough up a bit for that.

  13. I don’t favour the idea of an MP-only hotel or tower block. Let them suffer the same indignities of the housing market as the rest of us; don’t cosset them in cosy five-star hotels.

  14. It does stink.
    And Burnham’s excuse “They changed to rules to my disadvantage so I changed residence to get around the rules” stinks too.

  15. Bloke in North Dorset

    Maybe what is doing is within the rules, and may even be fair for some definitions of fair, but if it was a Tory sticking to the rules or maybe a Voodophone or Amazon then Burnham would be at the head of the queue to generate political capital. Swords and living by spring to mind and I won’t be losing any sleep over it.

    Having said that, I would like to see him as part leader as that would just about guarantee keeping Labour out at the next election, as long as the Tories don’t commit suicide. Labour, as it is currently constituted, dalenda est.

  16. There are special rules – or rather a particular interpretation of the rules – for MPs. This is because we acknowledge the need a home near Parliament and a home in their constituency. So this isn’t unreasonable.
    What is unreasonable is playing political hokey-cokey (left foot in; left foot out) and making buy-to-let people out to be evil bastards when you’re one of them.

  17. So Much for Subtlety

    I wonder what goes through his mind when he does things like this? Does he think that he is one of the Elect and so entitled? Does he think no one will notice?

    British politics seems to have got into this odd state where the hatreds of the 1970s now defines politics. They don’t actually believe in anything, and they pretty much agree on all issues – Cameron won’t overturn the hunting ban, for instance, because he can’t get enough “Tory” votes, although I doubt he wants to. They just remember who said what to whom in a bar near Manchester Uni back in 1974.

    Tossers, the lot of them.

    At least he does not have an overshore family trust to avoid paying taxes the way that Noam Chomsky does.

  18. SMFS

    I wonder what goes through his mind when he does things like this? Does he think that he is one of the Elect and so entitled? Does he think no one will notice?

    When you join an employer you know what the salary and benefits are. Some jobs have more benefits / less salary or vice versa than others.

    You’ll disagree with me, but I’m guessing a fair number of them on getting elected thought “well, we knew the salary wasn’t the motivation (and yes YMMV) but the benefits sort of help to balance the money side given the need to be in various different place and all that”.

    And then – ignoring those that actually did then “break the law” – probably thought nothing more about it, as it was a standard package that they all received…

    Up until 2009, big changes / clarification of rules in response to public outrage, and we move on.

    The flat is now history (or else we should have demanded retrospective compensation or something at the time?). If he had sold the London flat and bought a pad in Spain with it, would the press be following that up? Probably not.

    If it’s because he’s being a hypocrite (Ironman?), I agree 100%, smack him (metaphorically) where it hurts…

    If this becomes a process of hounding them simply because they are MPs, then anyone complaining about the quality of our MPs is being the hypocrite, because no one decent will risk standing?

    OMG, I’m defending these guys, what the hell is going on……

    Tossers, the lot of them.

    I agree..!!

    Close shave – I thought I was losing it there…

  19. So Much for Subtlety

    PF – “When you join an employer you know what the salary and benefits are. Some jobs have more benefits / less salary or vice versa than others.”

    But this is more complex because they have created a complex system to award themselves higher pay without telling us. They were manipulating the benefits of the job to provide themselves with an extra dollop of cash.

    “And then – ignoring those that actually did then “break the law” – probably thought nothing more about it, as it was a standard package that they all received…”

    But didn’t they think how it looked? That is the issue. I do not deny that they are mostly within the rules. Just that it looks so awful. What were they thinking?

    “If this becomes a process of hounding them simply because they are MPs, then anyone complaining about the quality of our MPs is being the hypocrite, because no one decent will risk standing?”

    It is a real problem. But notice the death of the gentlemanly “it is not the done thing” approach to the letter of the law instead. We have been moving from one to the other in a lots of areas, and we do kind of miss the gentlemanly approach. Look at sex “crimes”.

  20. I sneeze in threes

    Soldiers in barracks I’m sure pay an accommodation charge. Sailors certainly pay charges on base, but not at sea.

    Simple answer, turf some pointless department out its Westminster building and convert it in to decent MPs accommodation. Easy to secure, walk to the commons. Every constituency can have a governor’s mansion (3 bed semi) with office space.

  21. Simply as a matter of politics, why on earth didn’t he gift his flat to his wife? Then she could sell it or let it as a simple business decision. Political Correctness would limit the censure flung his way.

  22. So Much for Subtlety

    I sneeze in threes – “Simple answer, turf some pointless department out its Westminster building and convert it in to decent MPs accommodation. Easy to secure, walk to the commons. Every constituency can have a governor’s mansion (3 bed semi) with office space.”

    That is an excellent suggestion. What are they doing with the Battersea Power Station these days? Failing that, Islington has any number of 1970s skyscrapers that are used as council housing.

  23. A hotel or tower block does have some advantages: All the tarts, rent boys, doms, drug dealers and so on would know exactly where to go to ply their respective trades and there could also be a large commitee room where all the various commissions into the MP’s multifarious crimes could sit in judgement with excellent access to both the witnesses and the accused.

  24. disgusted of tumbridge wells

    This idea of housing MPs in dedicated buildings has considerable merit. Of course the attendant security measures would present a sizable challenge, but with ingenuity it should be possible to get a bomb in. Maybe incorporate one in the fabric during the conversion work.
    Then it’s simply a matter of waiting for the appropriate time. Late night three-line whip on a matter of importance should do it. Could get nearly a full house.
    Think of the celebrations!

  25. Would I be right in assuming that for anyone but an MP, provision of living accomodation by an employer, not an overnight stay on company business, would be taxed as a benefit in kind? If so, that’s the bit that stinks.

    Regardless of the other answers above, MPs obviously thought that it might be taxed as a benefit in kind, because they passed legislation to specifically exempt themselves from that tax (see the Update at the bottom of this post).

    DK

  26. I’m finding it difficult to be outraged by this for the reasons that OHG provides in the OP. Burnham doesn’t seem to be one of the piss-takers – I guess the low hanging fruits are old news.

  27. So Much for Subtlety

    ukliberty – “I’m finding it difficult to be outraged by this”

    You don’t say. I am not sure a lot of people will be surprised.

    Burnham just reminds of the Australian politician who said that when he joined the Labour Party it was full of the cream of the working class, but now it was run by the dregs of the middle class. Can anyone see any Old School working class Labour members doing this?

  28. When we’ve all finished hearing our politicians into the accommodation we think they deserve, could we ponder a couple of things:-

    1. What quality of person would allow is to subject them to that for the great honour of serving us? Yes we would get plenty of takers, but of what quality?
    2. Having found exactly what quality of person we then have, how surprised will we be when those half-brain fascist statists then claim for the state the right to treat us in exactly the same way and start to, er, “plan” where we live?

  29. So you’re saying that it’s a good thing that we’re governed by kleptomaniac, narcissistic, fuckwitted, congenital liars?

  30. If by ‘status quo’ you mean the democratic system we enjoy in the UK. That system involving free and open debate, free and fair elections and the secrecy of an infividual’s vote, providing our ELECTED representatives with the legitimacy they do indeed enjoy, then, yes, I do support and defend the status quo.

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