Exactly a month ago, the SKWAWKBOX highlighted the issue of Paul Nuttall’s constituency ‘office’, but it’s an issue that has largely been eclipsed by the revelations of Nuttall’s false claims about the Hillsborough disaster and his disgraceful, rapidly-debunked attempts to offload the blame for them.
It’s time to reopen it.
UK parliamentary rules allow various items of expenditure to be claimed by MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) – ‘Parliamentary Assistance’, to cover staff and other human resource costs, the self-explanatory ‘Secretarial Assistance’ – and ‘General Expenditure’. This parliamentary document outlines the kind of items that are covered and makes clear that the category is for costs relating to ‘activities in their capacity as members not covered by other allowances‘:
As ‘other allowances’ include staff and secretarial costs, these cannot be claimed under ‘General Expenditure’ but costs related to the rental and running of a UK constituency office can.
After years of some controversy, UKIP now publishes ‘transparency reports’ giving details of the claims made by all their MPs – including Paul Nuttall. Unlike the reports of other political parties, UKIP’s reports are not audited. MEPs simply submit their reports as ‘proof’ of expenditure and claim the cash from the EU.
UK taxpayers’ cash that is paid to the EU for the purpose.
Details of the claims, which are made for half-yearly periods, are available online. Here’s an example of the ‘General Expenditure’ section from one of Paul Nuttall’s claims:
Paul Nuttall’s claims are as follows:
Jul-Dec 2009: £21,833
Jan-Jun 2010: £18,387
Jul-Dec 2010: £16,753
Jan-Jun 2011: £21,105
Jul-Dec 2011: £21,145
Jan-Jun 2012: £19,416
Jul-Dec 2012: £13,490
Jan-Jun 2013: £19,990
Jul-Dec 2013: £13,486
Jan-Jun 2014: £12,109
Jul-Dec 2014: £21,985
Jan-Jun 2015: £19,042
(Figures for Jul-Dec 2016 have not yet been filed)
Total: £218,741 at an average of £18,228 per half-year.
Assuming similar figures for Jul 2015 to the end of 2016, Mr Nuttall has claimed around £273,000 for his office costs.
For an office that appears not to exist.
As the SKWAWKBOX revealed a month ago, Paul Nuttall’s office address given on his website is a PO Box number with a Liverpool postcode – and refers to a location that is not an office, just a box in a Royal Mail depot:
Paul Nuttall did have an office – for around 3 months in 2010, as a campaign base for his failed General Election campaign in Bootle. But that office then closed and, years later, was still empty:
Apart from that, there is no indication whatever that Mr Nuttall has had a physical office that would require expense claims.
And sources close to UKIP allege that he has, instead, taken the money as a tax-free perk.
Remember, these figures do not include the staff costs that the mainstream media publicised at the beginning of this month as being the subject of investigation by the OLAF EU anti-fraud unit, which underscores the scale of the alleged fraud that OLAF is investigating – which the allegations document estimates at as high as 20 million euros.
If we were to be extremely generous, you could just about argue that even a home office might need stationery and an internet connection. But you could not argue that it would require ‘management and running costs’, according to the example table shown above, of almost £1,800 a month and equipment costs of well over £1,000 a month.
Remember, this is UK taxpayers’ cash that goes to the EU to cover the cost of the UK’s MEPs. UKIP loves to hold forth about the wastefulness and corruption of the EU – it seems that the party constitutes a significant portion of it.
If it is on schedule, the OLAF investigation has now been completed and the report should be available soon – and it will show how far UKIP’s fraud extends beyond the £400,000 or so that its MEPs were found guilty of late last year.
In the meantime, unless he can provide evidence for the existence of an office – which he has failed to do over the past month since the issue was originally raised by the SKWAWKBOX – in view of the fiasco of his inventions over the past week or so, we are entitled to ask just what Paul Nuttall has been doing with this huge sum of cash.
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