Links from a number of blogs, including the acerbic Tory Bear, to yesterday’s scoop on Liberal Democrat office expenses made for record readership figures – and it doesn’t seem that Tuesday will offer much respite for Sarah Teather. Scrapbook can reveal that the Brent East MP’s telephone bills are of significant interest to an ongoing investigation by the parliamentary sleaze watchdog:

  • Brent Liberal Democrats not only share a taxpayer-funded office with Sarah Teather but also a telephone system.
  • Accounts submitted to the Electoral Commission show that Brent Liberal Democrats have paid absolutely nothing in telephone bills.*
  • For the last four years that claims are available, the full amount for each BT invoice has been claimed back in expenses by Sarah Teather, even though the phone number is also listed as the main contact telephone number for Brent Liberal Democrats.

Of most concern, however, are the massive increases in office telephone bills coinciding with local election campaigns, which have opened Brent Liberal Democrats to the accusation that Sarah Teather’s taxpayer-funded phone system could have been abused for party political activities such as phone canvassing:

Teather’s phone bills jumped a massive 50% to nearly £2,500 in the period encompassing the run up to the 2006 local elections to Brent Borough Council where the Liberal Democrats gained 16 seats. The largest bill – for a whopping £1,330 – would cover the period immediately before polling day on 4 May:

That Brent Liberal Democrats have taken a free ride on Sarah Teather’s taxpayer-funded phone system is bad enough, now we look to see whether this was abused systematically as part of an election campaign. The first page of redacted phone bills aren’t a smoking gun …

But the fully itemised bills could be.

*Accounts available for 2004200520062007 and 2008.

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