WITHOUT PREJUDICE: Kevin Barron MP – Expenses Issues

I’ve still not had chance to go through all the documentation from Kevin Barron’s expense claims because contrary to appearances I have other stuff to do!

However, from what I’ve seek so far there are a number of key issues Kevin Barron needs to explain to his constituents with regard to his expenses.

Issue 1 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPFurniture

Kevin Barron MP is on record as saying he hasn’t claimned for furniture. It’s near the end of this article in the Yorkshire Post:

Rother Valley Labour MP Mr Barron admitted flats in Westminster were expensive but said he had claimed nothing for utility bills or furniture and was reluctant to claim for food.

Yet this receipt clearly shows a claim for £7109.79 worth of furniture. This one shows a claim for £227 worth of furniture. Being generous one assumes Kevin Barron meant he hadn’t claimed for personal furniture, but to say he hadn’t claimed for furniture is careless at least.

The real issue with his furniture claims though is how big the claims are. £7,000 is a lot of normal office furniture, or a small amount of very expensive office furniture. Either way an explanation is needed. If he has bought an awful lot of office furniture, where is it, and why does he need it? If he has bought a small amount of very expensive furniture, was that expenditure wholly necessary? I know somone who owns a business that turns over £9 million a year, and he does it all from a slightly larger than normal office desk that cost about £300 – but then he was spending his own money when he bought it.

Issue 2 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPPetty Cash

Kevin Barron claims a lot in petty cash. In the years I have looked he claims £200 a month, which although he only seems to claim it 10 months a year, and is short of the maximum allowed, is still a fair lump of money to claim without a single supporting receipt. In the financial year 2004/5 for example he claimed £2050 in petty cash, without a single receipt. That’s more than an extra month’s salary for a lot of people – not an insignificant amount. It would be good if Kevin could explain what this money is for, and how come it always ends up being a nice, round £200 per month.

Issue 3 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPAccountancy

MPs expenses are supposed to cover things that are wholly and absolutely necessary for the claimant’s work as an MP. I would suggest that a personal tax return does not fit that criteria, but Kevin Barron has claimed for professional help with his tax return nonetheless. In fact I have found two receipts for tax help so far, both for about £1,000. There is this one from March 2005, and this one, from March 2006.

This seems a very clear case of claiming for something that should not have been claimed for, and it should be paid back. It would have been nice if Kevin Barron had been honest enough not to claim for his personal accountancy. He wasn’t. It would have been helpful if, when he knew his expenses were to be made public he had pre-empted their publication and confessed to these claims and repaid them. He didn’t. It would have been unsurprising if, when other MPs were criticised for the same thing he had confessed. He didn’t. So, now the public have been through your heavily redacted expenses for you, Mr Barron, will you repay what is clearly a personal expense?

Issue 4 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPThe Mother of all Printers

Kevin claimed £8.438.85 for a printer in December 2007. Now I can see why he might need a printer. I can even see that he might need quite a nice printer. But a printer costing £8,500?

Now Kevin will no doubt explain that it is a printer that sorts and staples and things, and that is very useful for him. And that may will be the case. But Kevin, my loyal blog reader, let me tell you a story about how people in the real world get on when they need things printing. I used to be a teacher at a secondary school a few years ago. There were very few text books in the department because we had had to spend the money on IT – so there was little material for my students to revise from. There were also few worksheets that fitted with the new syallbus that was introduced just before I started. So I bought myself a printer, out of my basic teachers salary. It was a laser printer like yours, and it cost £99.99. Now it couldn’t do colour like yours can, and could only print at a measly 9 pages per minute. but otherwise it was similar. Now when I needed booklets making up for my students I bought paper with my wages, set my printer going the night before so it would all print in time using a toner cartridge I had bought out of my wages and in the morning I got up early and stapled it all together myself. A lot of teachers do the same because there simply aren’t the resources in school.

So, Kevin, if teachers are required to do all that and pay for it themselves, perhaps you can justify your all-singing, all dancing printer purchased at tax-payers expense, especially as you have clerical assistance?

Issue 5 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPThe Camera Collection

Kevin has claimed for two cameras in a little under three years. First there was this £499.38 Fuji in March 2005, and then there was this Canon for £957 in February 2008. He was only allowed to claim £350 against the Canon – his claim has the words “John Lewis?’ next to it, suggesting that £350 is the maximum for a camera according to the ‘John Lewis List’ but he did claim £400 in petty cash at the same time.

As with the other expenses here, Kevin Barron needs to explain how these cameras benefit his constituents or are necessary for his work as an MP. One camera I can just about see a case for – although I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t have one anyway – but two cameras, neither of which was cheap, seems excessive.

Issue 6 with the expenses of Kevin Barron MPThe Website claims

I have seen several receipts in the pages I have been through so far that are to do with websites. There is this one for ‘changes and updates to website‘ which was £39, this one for ‘purchase of new domain name and webspace’, ‘migration of the old website to the new server and setup’ and ‘changes made to the website as specified by the client’ that comes to a whopping £953 – more on that later, and finally this invoice which we know to be for £88.12 even though the total has been ‘redacted’ because it appears on the claim cover sheet. That’s a total of £1086.95 on website related invoices, and no website to show for it.

With regard to the £953 for the new server space, domain name and migration of the website. Funnily enough I moved my business website last week as my old host had become unreliable. They didn’t want me to leave, so were most unhelpful – to the extent that I couldn’t move my website myself as planned, and had to ring my brother, who is a professional web developer, for help. It was a little more tricky than I had hoped but  it took him no more than two hours to shift it all across and check it worked. And remember my website actually has media, text and video content, custom templates and add-ons. As far as I can tell Kevin Barron’s website it empty, so moving it would have been a trivial matter. Quite why he has been billed for 6 hours at £69 an hour for this needs explanation. The invoice is odd in that mentions £125 for the webspace and domain name, but not what the domain name was, how much space was bought, and for how long. The domain should only have cost about £10 a year, but without knowing how much webspace was bought we can’t know if this is a good deal or not, although it seems ‘a bit toppy’. This website (as opposed to my company one) is entirely free, and has all the features Kevin would need to communicate with his electorate.

The other question about these website claims – as well as what they are actually for, given that Kevin Barron doesn’t have a working website – is who the company “K&R Consultants’  performing the work are. They certainly seem to charge a lot, but they are seemingly not VAT regiestered, so must have a fairly small turnover despite churning out invoices for nearly £1,000 for 12 hours work. They are not listed on Yell though, which means they are not in the yellow pages, and I can find no trace of them on google. I wonder how Kevin Barron found them? I have rung the similarly named K&R  Systems in Skegness and they told me they have never traded as K&R Consultants, so the identity of the company is a mystery.

Now this is where it gets really interesting. The domain rothervalley.info is listed in The Guardian as being Kevin Barron’s website. Now if you do a whois lookup on that domain it tells you it was registered on 6th February 2007, so I assume that the domain registration mentioned in the invoice from the mysterious K&R Consultants in March 2007 was for this domain. If you scroll through the details held in the public domain for who registed the domain (this is done for all domains) you can see that it was registered by
somebody called Robbie Barron.

Domain Name:ROTHERVALLEY.INFO
Created On:06-Feb-2007 19:20:07 UTC
Last Updated On:29-Mar-2009 20:46:46 UTC
Expiration Date:06-Feb-2011 19:20:07 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:Freeparking Domain Registrars Inc. (R305-LRMS)
Registrant Name:Domain Contact (321719)
Registrant Organization:Robbie Barron
Registrant Street1:[Removed by me, but in the public domain]
Registrant City:Sheffield
Registrant State/Province:South Yorkshire
Registrant Postal Code:S66 [removed by me, but in the public domain]

So the domain that Kevin Barron seems to have claimed several hundred pounds for was registered by a Robbie Barron who seems to live in Maltby too. Presumably Robbie works for K&R Consulting – although his listed email addresses don’t mention K&R Consulting. I am reliably informed that Kevin Barron has a son called Robbie. The Internet Wayback Machine has only ever managed to detect one page on the domain rothervalley.info (unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be able to retrieve it) which is not much to show for a £953 invoice. One wonders what data was migrated, and how many changes were made for £414.

So, a few issues here – firstly and most obviously there is no website, secondly the domain registration is ludicrously overpriced as is the consultation, thirdly the company doing the work are not VAT registered, which is suspicious, and finally the domain the invoice appears to relate to was registered to some one with the same surname and postcode as Kevin Barron himself (for about a tenner).

So there you have it. I’ve not finished with the documents so far, but those are the main issues I have found. Kevin, I know you read this, so it would be great if you could comment, or get in touch with me via the blog and explain these claims. I am more than happy to publish your responses, and the offer I have made several times for you to be an author on here and create your own posts in leiu of having your own website still stands.

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