Parliamentary expenses body IPSA citing commercial confidentiality to avoid declaring the rent on its new Millbank headquarters has yellow-jacketed MP Bob Russell foaming at the mouth:
“So the organisation which requires MPs to give in great detail what operating costs they incur in terms of office rents and stationery is not required to tell the public how much taxpayers money it is paying to rent expensive London offices?”
But perhaps there is an explanation as to why the subject of IPSA and office rental arrangements is such a touchy subject for the Colchester MP.
Two years ago Russell was censured by the Parliamentary Commissioner for standards for claiming £70,000 in expenses for an office owned by a company in which he was a major shareholder.
Russell was running the same dodgy arrangement as other MPs — sub-letting part of a larger office from their local party at the taxpayer’s expense, allowing them a bigger campaigning base than they would otherwise be able to afford.
The Colchester Gazette reported:
The company [in which Russell owns shares] was formed in 2002 to facilitate the purchase of the former St Mary Magdalen Church, by Colchester’s Lib Dems, for £100,000.
Party members were called on to make donations to buy the hall and were given shares in return, with Mr Russell putting up more of the cash than anyone else.
Russell stumped up his own money because the taxpayer was obligated to pay rent for a contrived arrangement which was to his obvious electoral benefit — and the MPs salary which follows.