MP expense payments to undisclosed recipients – FOI reveals.. what exactly?

phillips FOI.png

Last month the following Freedom of Information request was submitted to IPSA (the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority) about a series of payments claimed on expenses with largely round numbers but no details of the recipients:

Consulting the expenses Claim Data available for download from your website, it is somewhat unfortunate that most of the largest payments made through the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses for the constituency of Birmingham Yardley do not indicate who the recipient was (as do the vast majority of other claims).

Please provide information that makes it possible to identify the recipient of the following large payments.

  • 10 Mar 2016 Yardley District Research 6,000.00
  • 8 Mar 2016 Constituency communications 10,000.00
  • 4 Jan 2016 Digital Consultancy 2,499.00
  • 5 Oct 2015 Digital consultancy 1,666.00
  • 5 Oct 2015 recruitment and office systems 5,000.00
  • 10 Mar 2016 Yardley District Research 6,000.00

IPSA responded to the claim in full, applying no exemptions, with the names of the recipients of these payments:

ipsa response

Five payments, three names, involving a total of just over £25,000.

IPSA makes clear that these payments are not to what are termed ‘connected parties’ (according to IPSA’s guidance, connected parties are essentially families and business partners), which would not qualify for expense claims.

But the recipients do not appear to be entirely unconnected, either:

Caroline Badley

Ms Badley is the recipient of three payments, for ‘constituency communications’ and ‘digital consultancy’. She is a former Labour councillor in Birmingham – the city at the centre of a scandal involving the disenfranchisement of thousands of pro-Corbyn Labour members from council candidate selection – and a colleague of Ms Phillips when she was a councillor before she was an MP.

Ms Badley has worked on the campaigns of various Progress/right-wing candidates, including that of Jess Phillips, for which she was praised by Progress director Richard Angell. But her Twitter timeline may suggest a personal friendship as well as staunch political support, for example:

badley phillips tweet

Penny Holbrook

Penny Holbrook, who received a payment of £5,000 for ‘recruitment and office systems’ is also a Birmingham councillor and, when she stood for leadership of the council in 2015, received a fulsome endorsement from Jess Phillips:

holbrook phillips

Ms Holbrook lost by a single vote to rival John Clancy and Ms Phillips was unable to hide her disappointment:

I can’t pretend, because it’s not in my DNA, that I am not disappointed with the result.

Ms Holbrook has also promoted Jess Phillips’ book on her Twitter feed.

Nicola Toms

Nicola Toms is an event manager and volunteer coordinator in Birmingham, She received £6,000 via Ms Phillips’ expenses for ‘Yardley District Research’. She and the MP appear to be on very familiar terms:

nictoms phillips.png

Ms Phillips has co-operated with Ms Toms on volunteer projects and praisedpraised her for her work.

The SKWAWKBOX contacted Jess Phillips more than two full days ago to ask about these expense claims that were submitted with no recipient information:

phillips email.png

To date, she has not chosen to comment.

So, what do we have? The established facts are straightforward:

  1. Ms Phillips made payments to 3 people or their companies
  2. She claimed expenses for these payments with descriptions of various services paid for
  3. She did not – or IPSA for some reason did not – include the names of the recipients in her expense claim
  4. She appears to have more than a simple buyer/supplier relationship with them
  5. When asked about these transactions and relationships, Ms Phillips and her office have – so far – declined to comment

There may be nothing untoward in these transactions. However, the question needs to be answered about why these entries – in an apparent departure from usual practice – were claimed with the recipient names withheld. A comment from the MP might do much to clarify the matter.

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  1. Unusual for Ms Phillips to be quite so silent on any subject for any length of time – let alone two days (which for her is an eternity!)

  2. FISHY!
    Ms Philips.
    When you’re on TV, which is regular and talking with Andrew Neil or any other right leaning media program, you don’t miss a chance to stick your knife in, when Jeremy Corbin is mentioned!
    Come clean, pray tell, that you have nothing to hide!
    Are you finding it too difficult?

  3. Hmm – She also employs
    Husband Tom Phillips as Constituency Support Manager
    Fellow Councillor from Birmingham Council John O’Shea – Office Manager
    Alistair McIntosh – Birmingham Labour Students – Communications Officer
    Not only looks like severe cases of cronyism and nepotism but also all her male staff get the most pay.

      1. If you look on IPSA it gives staff salary ranges. Phillips appears to employ women as ‘caseworkers’ which are low paid jobs, higher paid jobs go to males, i.e. Office Manager, Communications Officer & Constituency Support Manager. Looks like she employs 1 women as Parliamentary caseworker (white woman who went to private school) and 1 woman as Yardley caseworker (woman of colour). I think she employs a woman as parliamentary assistant. According to IPSA, these positions lower pay than the positions Phillips has filled with men. Yardley caseworker probably on lowest pay.

  4. Also interesting is her Wiki page – note the history – appears to be a ‘cherry picking’ aspects of early life/early career.

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