Tag: Wills


Mr Hunt — talking about the wireless internet service being built by his company with a loan of almost £½M from the people of Swindon via Swindon Borough Council — says he’s

very very disappointing that it’s been politicised.

I too am disappointed. The attempt by Mr Wills to compare concerns over the wifi deal with the traditional and long-running political squabble about how much of our money Swindon receives from central government is blatant politicisation.

For years, Swindon borough councillors have misled residents about government funding but there is growing evidence that this forms part of a pattern…. I believe there is evidence of systemic secrecy in Swindon Borough Council about money and this represents a failure of governance. I call now on Swindon Borough Council to reveal the truth about Oakhurst School and the wi-fi scheme and do the survey on bus travel residents want.

The links between that little lot are tenuous to say the least.

However, if Mr Hunt is so concerned about politicisation, then why did he choose to be pictured at the launch of the wifi service in Highworth, alongside an all-blue line-up of Mr Bluh and parliamentary shadow cabinet member Ms Spelman? If Mr Hunt doesn’t like politicisation, he shouldn’t make such a habit of appearing with politicians.

For myself and seemingly for others, this is not a party political matter: it’s about whether due process was followed when spending local taxpayers’ money. The pursuit of the truth behind how and when the decision to spend almost £½M of local taxpayers’ money on this particular company would be just as determined, regardless of the party of the politicians involved.

Over confident

The local red nest have chosen a candidate to replace Mr Wills — if the electorate are willing, that is. So, for what does Mr Agarwal stand?

As a county councillor for Stanwell & Stanwell Moor in Surrey — of which he has been a lifelong resident —, Mr Agarwal, the self-styled Stanwell’s Voice, has expressed opinions on some topics that will be familiar to people in Swindon. He is, for example, a fan of council-supported wi-fi, unlike his Swindon colleagues.

I am currently working with Council Officers to see if it is possible that Stanwell & Stanwell Moor could have wi-fi access…. As Stanwell residents we could all work where we want to, when we want to, in the park, in the pub, in the garden…. The only city which has already done this is Seattle in America where residents have seen an enhancement to the quality of life.

Not surprisingly, he’s also no fan of blue nest dominated councils.

When you become a one-party local authority, things can get pushed through ‘on the nod’.

Rather like decisions on wifi provision? He supports the government’s national identity card scheme, which will win him no favours with Swindon’s No2ID campaigners.

He is also, apparently, committed to serving his local community in Stanwell and the Moor…

As someone brought up in Stanwell since infancy I am committed to serving my community and fellow residents.

Though obviously not quite as committed as he once was.

Some, such as Mr Montaut are taking the will of the people of North Swindon for granted.

This is a Labour town, and this is our seat.

Just what parts of ‘marginal constituency’ and ‘Conservative controlled council’ has Mr Montaut not understood? Mr Agarwal has managed to survive as Surrey’s only Labour county councillor by placing great emphasis on his long-term residence in the area. He can’t do that here; his main opponent can.

Still protesting too much

Mr Wills — who is suspending his website in a few days’ time because he can nolonger use our money to subsidise his political ramblings there — like so many of his colleagues just does not understand the public outrage over MPs’ expenses. Like many, he continues to protest his innocence for financial errors — errors which if made by his constituents would get little if any sympathy from the state.

To Mr Wills there’s nothing wrong with using a disallowed claim as an excuse for not paying back an overpayment of expenses.

[A] series of accounting mistakes result[ed] in double payments of claims by the Fees Office. I deducted from the repayment the amount I was owed by the Fees Office for receipted train fares to and from my constituency. The Fees Office has still not paid this because they say the claims were submitted 16 days after a deadline they had imposed, despite the fact they are entitled to waive the deadline.

Imagine missing a deadline for filing details for a tax claim, then using that as an excuse for not paying income tax. It wouldn’t work: the Inland Revenue would not be sympathetic; neither, I suspect, would Mr Wills. Yet he expects our sympathy for doing much the same thing.

By the standards of many of his MP colleagues, Mr Wills has been relatively well behaved financially. But when it comes to understanding the mood of the electorate on this issue, he’s as out-of-touch as the rest of them.

Protesting too much

One could be forgiven for thinking that Mr Wills’ little outburst against the New Swindon Company and Swindon Borough Council was just a rather poor attempt to divert attention from the revelations about his parliamentary expenses, revelations about which he did protest rather too much.

I am not facing questions over items purchased at taxpayers’ expense during the past financial year ’ not least because travel costs are not items purchased at taxpayers’ expense and these are legitimate travel costs.

Ahh, spin, spin, spin. Travel costs may not be ‘items’, but they were still at the taxpayers’ expense.

I did not agree it was a mistake to claim this amount. It was a mistake to claim it under this header, which I did on the advice of the Fees office. It should have been claimed under the travel heading. I did not add that the costs ‘would have been’ allowable under my travel allowance. They are allowable under my travel allowance and they are being allowed under my travel allowance.

Spinning again: picking at individual phrases whilst not substantively disputing what was alleged. Does he really believe that saying ‘the trips would have been allowable under his travel allowance’ makes much difference from ‘the trips are allowable under his travel allowance’? And has he not realised that the whole problem with MPs’ allowances is that far too much is allowable?

The only reason my wife was hiring a Street Car to make journeys to and from the constituency was to save the taxpayer money. It is far cheaper — though more stressful for her — than claiming the train fares to which we are entitled.

Again, he misses the point. In what other job could anyone trough to this extent at the public’s expense?

And what of Mr Wills’ little outburst against the New Swindon Company and Swindon Borough Council? He admits to pushing for the creation of the New Swindon Company.

[T]he company was created, partly due to me pushing for it.

Yet he absolves himself of all responsibility for it.

Not enough has been delivered and both Swindon Council and the company are to blame.

The company is financed and controlled one third by the Council, one third by the South West Regional Development Agency — a quango created by his own government — and the Homes and Community Agency — a quango created by his own government. So that’s mainly his government wasting our money, rather than the council.

Mr Wills also seems not to have noticed the dire state of the economy that his government has created.

The plans don’t have sufficient vision, they’re humdrum…. I suggested a design competition with the likes of Norman Foster and Michael Hopkins taking part, but when I sent letters nothing was done.

Many would say that Swindon town centre has suffered from far too many council and developer visions over recent decades, and the Regent Place development failed through being too big a vision in a poor economy. Even in the topsy-turvy world of New Labour economics, it’s hard to understand how Mr Wills can believe that employing some of the most expensive architects in the business have made regeneration any more viable.

No Wills to continue

There are some things that are predictable in politics. For example, the candidates of a losing party in an election can be guaranteed to say that the winning party did badly… in comparison with predictions of success that a few hours before they would have disclaimed as nonsense. Similarly, except for those departing for health reasons, every MP that chooses not to fight an election would have us belief that this was a decision they’d been planning for a long time. The likelihood of defeat never, apparently, clouds their judgement. Thus yesterday’s news that Mr Wills won’t be hanging around for almost inevitable defeat at the next election comes with claims that he always planned it this way.

I have always believed politics is an act of public service, and that it was probably right that no MP should serve more than three terms.

On that basis, his own leader should have departed long ago, but Mr Wills doesn’t seem inclined to suggest that his boss follow his lead.

I have full confidence in the Prime Minister…. I don’t believe he has been given enough credit for helping this country to move out of recession.

Many would say the Prime Minister hasn’t taken enough credit for getting the country into this recession. But lets not let reality get in the way of Mr Wills’ musings.

This has been a good Government and history will say that this Government has changed the country for the better.

If by ‘good’ one means taking the country to war on the basis of forged evidence, then maybe. If by ‘good’ one means taking the country into its worse recession for eighty years and racking up massive debts, then maybe. If by ‘good’ one means massively restricting civil liberties with anti-terrorism legislation of limited, if any, effectiveness, then maybe. But lets not let reality get in the way of Mr Wills’ musings.

This Government has made a huge difference to Swindon and has enabled huge transformation to the town.

Forcing the town to expand its population by almost 20%, whilst saddling the town with an urban regeneration company that has almost single handedly — with a little help of the aforementioned recession — converted the town centre into a demolition site is not a transformation to be proud of. But lets not let reality get in the way of Mr Wills’ musings.

Mr Wills has been the lesser of Swindon’s two parliamentary evils. As a constituency MP, he was markedly better than the government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, but then that isn’t difficult to achieve. He also published a thorough breakdown of his expenses, many months before other MPs grudgingly succumbed to pressure from the public and did likewise. But none of that makes up for a voting record that speaks for itself — though again it’s better than the record of his South Swindon compatriot.

Mr Wills says standing down was a difficult decision to make.

It was a very difficult decision…. This was not a sudden decision; it was one I have been mulling over for the past year.

Given the opportunity, his constituents would have very easily made the same decision for him.

Swindon MPs’ expenses

In all the furore over MPs’ expenses, Mr Wills must be feeling fairly calm. For some time now he has published full details of his expenses. For example, his statement of expenses for 2008/09 is itemised down to individual items, such as filing folders bought for £3.61 on 23rd March from a supplier called Banner. When it comes to the Additional Costs Allowance (the allowance for second homes and living in said second home) which has been the centre of attention lately, although his claims are not cheap (£19753.56 in 2007/08 and £18476.53 in 2008/09), they are restricted to paying for his mortgage, council tax, utility bills, telephone and insurance.

In contrast, the government’s representative in South Swindon, Ms Snelgrove, has been far less open. Until today she has published no more than the house of commons authorities published. Her claims do not match her voting record.

I pride myself upon being an open and accountable Member of Parliament and I am happy for my constituents to see what allowances I use in order to serve the people of South Swindon.

Anyone that claims that whilst consistently voting against such openness clearly doesn’t understand what openness and transparency mean. Only in the last month as the anger has mounted does she seem to have had a change of heart.

So it was that late last week Ms Snelgrove put her signature to a letter urging her colleagues to publish their expenses sooner rather than later.

I will be preparing my expenses over the coming days and will make them public to my local newspaper on Monday 18 May at 2pm.

This she has now done, but in comparison with Mr Wills, Ms Snelgrove’s effort is half-hearted: it’s a summary-level breakdown of the Additional Costs Allowance rather than a full breakdown, and there is no breakdown at all of her other allowances. It is also accompanied by a rambling attempt to justify her troughing at the public expense.

In addition to following the rules I have based my expenses claims on two principles ever since I became an MP in 2005.

That’s the now thoroughly discredited rules.

The first is that I don’t want to profit from the taxpayer in the short or long-term.

Well, she may not be profiting, but she’s certainly been living very comfortably — some might say luxuriously — in her second home at our expense. Over £4000 spent on her living room in three years, over £2000 on her bedroom and over £500 on bedding in the same period.

The second is that my claims should be for expenses I would not have if I was doing another job working in Swindon only, rather than living and working in two places (London and Swindon) as MPs have to.

I presume then that she would have chosen to starve if she hadn’t been an MP, as she claimed £4300 on food in one year.

The majority of items I have bought are one-offs, apart from replacement items when a cupboard collapsed and all the contents were smashed, and water damage to towels and bedding following a leak.

Was she not insured? Perhaps not as it was only in 2007/08 that she claimed £137.23 for insurance.

I want to see the House of Commons introduce a system which is transparent yet enables all MPs to fulfill (sic) their parliamentary and constituency duties fully

That’s not what her voting record suggests.

I also pledge to clean up the second jobs scandal, where many MPs work not for their constituencies but for commercial or lobby companies despite receiving a full parliamentary salary.

Lets not forget that every Labour MP is sponsored by a union. It’s not just those with second jobs that represent interests other than those of their constituents.

I want to be accountable to constituents in Swindon South and I want to maintain your trust.

On the evidence so far, Ms Snelgrove’s failed on both counts.

MPs’ expenses

Parliament has today published the expenses and allowances claimed by MPs in 2007/08. The figures for Swindon’s MPs are:


Member Cost of staying away from main home Office running costs Staffing costs Centrally purchased stationery Stationery associated postage costs Central IT provision Staff cover & other costs Comms Allowance
Ms Snelgrove £20,913 £21,605 £89,656 £2,917 £3,277 £1,078 £0 £8,923
Mr Wills £20,766 £10,216 £100,554 £1,732 £5,254 £1,328 £2,429 £9,406

Travel expenses

Member MP Travel: between home/constituency/Westminster MP Travel: Other Rail Spouse Travel Employee Travel
Mileage Rail Misc Spouse Total No. of Journeys Employee Total No. of Journeys
Ms Snelgrove £2,853 £5,096 £264 £25 £90 2 £532 18
Mr Wills £580 £834 £0 £0 £39 0 £0 0

Add in their salaries of over £60,000 and each of them has cost well over £200,000 a year. Mr Wills already publishes his expenses in full detail but Ms Snelgrove is more reticent. She may be proud of what she delivers for that price; I think the people of Swindon deserve a refund.

Surveys for nothing, fares for a fortune

Exact fare pleaseI’ve no idea how Mr Wills thinks pollsters earn their living, but apparently it’s not from running surveys. In what is becoming an annual argument over free travel for pensioners, he seems to think that Swindon Borough Council can obtain a survey for nothing.

In these difficult economic times I am not asking the council to spend more money but only to conduct a survey to see whether passengers can get what they are asking for without any extra burden on the taxpayer.

Surveys cost money… unless you want something that’s so poor as to not be worth the effort. It also doesn’t take much thought to work out that, if some pensioners are currently paying to travel before 9.30 am — which the comments in the Adver report show they are — then giving them free travel will cost the taxpayer money.

Whether or not the extra cost’s as much as the £230,000 claimed by Mr Bluh is another matter. That figure corresponds to roughly 2700 extra pensioners travelling in the extra half hour each week.

Hoist by his own quango

’Tis odd what Mr Wills thinks will impressive his constituents. There’s many that question the value to Swindon of the New Swindon Company — there’s little that it does that seemingly would not happen if it didn’t exist. Having claimed it as his own creation. it’s not surprising that he’s somewhat disappointed that the company disapproves of his own government’s reduction to business rate relief on empty commercial properties. That Mr Wills regards concern over a policy that is leading to premature demolition of vacant commercial properties in central Swindon as “destructive, ill-informed game-playing” and has nothing constructive to say himself on the issue suggests that he cares little for the town he represents. In Swindon, the widespread demolition ahead of regeneration now delayed by the stalling economy is a clear blight on the town centre. The concerns raised deserve a considered response.

Partners in hypocrisy

Just a day after Mr Wills’ hypocritical outburst over post office closures, Ms Snelgrove has been talking on the very same subject in parliament. Did she take the opportunity to express concern over the closure of post offices in Swindon, or to express surprise that, despite representations to the ‘consultation’, all the Post Office’s closure plans in this area remained unchanged? Of course not. Instead she chose to repeat Mr Willsattack on the local council.

I share concerns about the consultation process, but does he share my anger about the fact that Tory-controlled Swindon borough council has not taken part in the consultation exercise, and did not attend any of the meetings held by Postwatch or the Post Office? The Conservatives in Swindon are now jumping on the bandwagon, but have made no representations to the Post Office or to Postwatch about the closures in my constituency.

And just what did Ms Snelgrove do for the post offices in her constituency, apart from having her photo taken in one of the doomed post offices? Although she sent out a letter inviting people to sign a petition against the closures, she has, since then, been remarkably silent on the subject. Clearly, she’s far more keen to attack the opposition than do anything for her constituents. It’s no wonder Ms Snelgrove is often referred to as The Government’s representative in South Swindon.

When yesterday given the opportunity again to express their opposition to the post office closures:

With duplicitous behaviour like this, it’s no surprise that politicians are held in low esteem.