One of the more blatant expenses exposés of the weekend was that of disgustingly rich Baroness Uddin's second homes claims.
A LABOUR peer who lives in the East End of London has claimed about £100,000 in parliamentary expenses on a flat in Kent that neighbours say has been unoccupied for years.
Baroness Uddin, who worked closely with Tony and Cherie Blair, has been claiming allowances intended for peers living outside London although she resides only four miles from the Lords.
Inquiries by The Sunday Times have established that the baroness bought a two-bedroom flat in Maidstone in 2005 and has named it as her main home to claim almost £30,000 a year in accommodation expenses from the House of Lords.
Residents from the five other flats in the same block as Uddin’s property all say they have never seen her there. They could see through the windows that the bedrooms were unfurnished.
Last weekend, hours after The Sunday Times had challenged Uddin about her “main residence”, the baroness’s BMW 4x4 car was spotted at the Maidstone flat and members of her family arrived.
A plumber who went into the flat to help the family with a broken boiler said: “It looked like they were just moving in. They told me they were just moving in.” By Sunday night, curtains covered the windows, a light was on in the hall and a mat was placed outside the front door.
The Sunday Times has also challenged Uddin about a further £83,000 worth of expense claims she made before she bought the Maidstone flat in September 2005.
She has claimed that her main residence has been outside the capital since 2001 but refuses to say where, despite repeated questions.
Insisting she had done nothing wrong, Uddin said: “Should the House of Lords authorities wish to investigate the matter I will, of course, cooperate fully.” She said she stayed at the flat “regularly” and that it had furniture.
Yesterday she appeared at the flat but refused to prove it was furnished by showing a reporter around. “I’m telling you it is. You'll just have to accept that,” she said.
Really? Why? Look, the days when we gave any credence to the claims of politicians—which is what people like Baroness Uddin are really—are long, long gone. Your word simply isn't enough anymore.
"So what?" I hear the public cry. "Yeah, yeah, it's another politico with their snout in the trough. I'm getting bored of these stor... Oooh, shiny!"
But Constantly Furious has pegged all of the bits of the story together to paint a picture of truly stupendous hypocrisy and spite.
But it gets worse: according to Andrew Gilligan, in the Evening Standard the flat she really lived in was Social Housing—a council flat. The housing association receives a massive subsidy (again, from taxpayers) and can therefore keep the average rent for its properties at around a sixth of the market rate.
Gilligan goes on:"However, even without her allowances from the Lords, Baroness Uddin, 49, is well above the income bracket to qualify for social housing. She has held a number of highly-remunerated directorships at major companies, including former ITV giant Carlton Television, and was a senior employee and parliamentary consultant for the Excelcare nursing home group"
So not short of a bob or too then? Oh, but there's more:"Because she claims her main residence is outside London, Lady Uddin is also entitled to collect up to £174 every day she attends the Lords for the cost of accommodation in the capital. The amount is paid to peers without the need to produce receipts and many claim the maximum every day they attend.
Baroness Uddin claimed a total of £29,675 for accommodation in 2007/8, a time when the maximum daily accommodation claim was £165 a day. Her bill represents a claim at the maximum possible rate for 179 days, more days than the Lords actually sat that year"
And here, for your pleasure, is Baroness Uddin commenting on the social housing shortage earlier this year [5 Feb 2009 : Column 761].
Baroness Uddin: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that our policy on homeless families impacts greatly on those who are waiting on the list? Is she aware that about 25,000 families are on the waiting list in east London? What does her department intend to do about the new housing to be built on the Olympic site to address the need for family housing?
Perhaps you'd care to free up your social housing in Wapping, Baroness? But what I reckon she is probably asking is, "will my noble friend commit to funnelling ever vaster amounts of money to housing associations such as Spitalfields Housing Association?"
And, as both Constantly Furious and the Ranting King Penguin have pointed out, there are some awfully familiar names in Spitalfields Housing Association* (which owns the Baroness's Wapping residence).
- Faruque Uddin—Housing Officer
- Abdus Uddin—Assistant Maintenance Officer
- Ala Uddin—Vice-Chair [of the Board of Management]
Well, well, well: isn't that a colossal fucking coincidence? I can't imagine what the quid pro quo there might be: can you?
As the publication of the (albeit, slightly neutered) expenses looms ever closer, expect to see a lot more of these sorts of stories. These people have been deliberately and systematically ripping us off for decades: this could get very ugly.
*Incidentally, the website bears the Level AAA Web Accessibility Initiative logo. Needless to say, the site is not triple A compliant: the menu breaks single A compliance just by itself (drop-downs, insufficient colour contrast).