“now it’s run from a prefabricated extension to the house..”

The BBC’s Mark Devenport was, apparently, talking to UUP MLA Billy Armstrong about his prefabricated constituency office “owned by his wife and based on their farm”, for which he had been claiming rental costs from public funds, but Mark doesn’t appear to have seen the Belfast Telegraph beforehand. According to a report there, and in contrast to the previous descripton given here – that “the prefabricated constituency office was “purpose built” and is located on lawns close to his home” – Mr Armstrong now claims that the office was “an extension to his home and he does not consider that planning permission is required.”

A DoE Planning Service spokeswoman said: “The Divisional Planning Office has no record of planning permission being granted for a constituency office or an associated sign at this location. Enforcement action is not under way but the alleged breach will now be investigated by the division.”

The full response to David Gordon’s FoI request on the rent claimed by MLAs is noted here – downloadable as a Word document here.

Details of the landlords of MLA offices have been withheld by Stormont officials. This decision will be challenged, if necessary through a complaint to the Information Commissioner, the watchdog for the FOI Act.

The Assembly argued that revealing the identity of commercial landlord interests could cause them financial difficulties.

Its FOI response said: “Despite the considerable political developments in Northern Ireland in recent times, the potential for economic sanctions towards commercial interests from a differing community background persists.”

, , ,

  • joeCanuck

    Despite the considerable political developments in Northern Ireland in recent times, the potential for economic sanctions towards commercial interests from a differing community background persists.

    I wonder did they make that up, due to personal bias, or is there a report or study that would justify it?

  • DC

    Well if you have ABC properties renting out to perhaps those of a Republican persuasion it’s easy to see why a company or firm and its employees may fear a wacky loyalist turning up at perhaps a time of severe loyal order strife, just for example.

    On the other hand it could be a case Slab’s Prefabs renting out to the bhoys, which would be interesting.

    But, this whole rental fiasco is absolutely mind boggling.

  • Mark Mcgregor

    UTV Live had Poots on. He was asked did he employ a family member – he said yes. They pointed out he wasn’t mentioned on the DUP list.

    Another factor is family members of one Rep employed through another, these are currently being hidden (though SF were open about it).

  • rural dweller

    What sort of idiot have the UUP got in Portacabin Billy,a man who does not know an office from an extension. Here is a man who is supposed to help people with their planning problems but only seems to be helping himself. I wonder how many planning applications has he opposed on the grounds of planning policy? There are alot of people turned down in Mid Ulster for planning permission so my advise to them would be to build away without permission and use the excuse if caught that if its good enough for an MLA,who is supposed to uphold the laws of the land, to build then it must be good enough for them. It is interesting to note that Reggie has still to make a comment

  • The__Raven

    I feel a PPS14 rant on the way….

  • Mark McGregor

    Currently central Belfast top wack for a decent office is cuurent £12 per sq/m. Nearly all are claiming well above that for shitholes in the sticks.

    These lot are just involved in a massive accountancy trick and that’s before you factor in the double claims for two MLAs using the same office, the MP claim in many cases and in some cases the EU claim.

    Then the double claimed office expenses etc.

  • E eye E eye yo

    Must be a good way to make a living being an MLA.Not only does Billy pay his wife rent but he also employs her as well as his daughter.Does anyone know their pay? Did he advertise these posts? Does his local association see his accounts? Has his association held a meeting to discuss the issue. So many questions so few answers. Come on Reg lets hear your position after all you wrote to the PM requesting him to look into the whole issue of probity in Stormont. Reg you need to look at your own party and clean it up by showing leadership and sacking Billy but the again I am told that his daughter,who is married to a local pig farmer,(so thats 2 of them bringing home the bacon)is his replacement.Talk about keeping it in the family.

  • BonarLaw

    Surely the answer to all of this is to have all those working for an MLA/ MP employed by the Assembly/ Westminster on a common set of terms and conditions. The MLA/ MP could still decide who to employ but at least there would be an openess currently lacking. Similarly an individual MLA/ MP should not rent an office that should be centralised so any contract is between the landlord and relevant legislature.

    Perhaps if we paid these people properly there wouldn’t be the temptation to sink the arm on the expenses front. Give them their £52K but only if they reduce the number of MLAs to something like 72 and reform the office costs allowances.

  • DC

    And thus to continue on from Mark’s supposition you could force an argument thus that the electoral contract between constituent and representative to work policy in line with ideology becomes tainted by pursuit of personal financial gain in doing so. This obviously isn’t a part of any representative contract that is based on a wider franchise of taking up issues on behalf of constituents.

    You would think that MLAs would take all is required to fulfil this democratic process and therefore not filter excessive public funds via false rental claims as part of working this democracy.

    As it appears Billy may well have broken two here: planning obligations imposed on his perhaps erstwhile constituents, and family embezzlement, which is becoming a wider concern now.

    While, as an excuse goes, the rules are ropey the operation of market forces and public regulations in which constituents operate in should be an appropriate indicator not to therefore finance personal property from public funds.

    Ultimately if Joe Public uses salaried pay to cover such expenses surely MLAs would be expected to do the same or should we follow our MLAs example and perhaps, as it would seem, falsify records, which in other lines of work would amount to dismissal.

  • E eye E eye yo

    Have just been told that Billy’s bungalow may not be cosher with the planners.I have been informed that the Bay window in his house is to big. Maybe its an extension!!!

  • Rory

    I certainly do not go along with the thinking that “maybe if we paid them more they wouldn’t need to fiddle”. The poor dears – forced by economic deprivation to commit dishonesties quite out of character with their usual high standards of moral rectitude.

    As if! If we paid the buggers more they would just feel the need to fiddle more commensurate with the hike in salary.

  • Crataegus

    What this tells you is that some of our elected representatives are exceedingly greedy and exceedingly stupid. This really is utterly pathetic.

    Some aren’t satisfied with over claiming but instead like to double claim, and some think Planning is meant for everyone else. All MLA’s involved in what I would regard as fraud should resign immediately their continuance in office besmirches the reputation of all elected representatives. It is an utter disgrace and there really is no excuse for it. Wait to we get into some MLA’s and close contacts with developers, more fun down the road.

    I actually think we would be better off with more MLA’s pay them less and tighten up on expenses. Encourage part time representatives who have other interests and expertise. Sometimes I think what is wrong with career politicians is that they don’t exist in the real world.

  • BonarLaw

    Crataegus

    like New Hampshire?

    I agree that some link between representatives and the real work is important. I also agree that part-time and term limited citizen legislators sound attractive but in a NI context you would fill Stormont with dole hounds and barristers.

    We have created a professional class of politicians so let’s pay them a professional wage and remove the ability to cheat the expenses.

  • BonarLaw

    BTW dodgy portacabins aside who on earth thought Armstrong was suitable to sit in any legislature?

    I’m not just picking on Billy but out of the 108 (108!) how many are up to it?

  • JohnK

    Can we have a new thread on tonight’s LETS TALK? I thought it was appalling.

  • pia lugum

    Billy’s office in Magherafelt was situated in an obscure back street building. It was staffed and run by Cllr Georgre Shiels of Magherafelt Council. Maybe this was the reason for its demise!
    When the same GS became chairman of the UUP constituency assoc it too went down to 25% of what it was when he first took over! At least there is consistency!
    And was the UUP not also centre stage in an embarassing milaege claim enquiry at Magherafelt Council?
    When will both unionist parties stop treating their voters as meal tickets for MLAs and their extended families. Paisley Snr. is now practically impotent in this regard but surely Empey could still shift himself and act locally rather than writing cosy letters to a bunch of spacers over in England!?

  • Don Quixote

    Let’s Talk is discussing the employment of relatives by MLA’s and there doesn’t seem to be as much anxiety as evidenced here on Slugger. All the parties seem to do it – the DUP and SF do it.

    One of the reasons they say is MLA’s need to trust their employees.

    Just how leaky would the SF and DUP ships be if they employed others?!

    Let them employ relatives if they want – Lord knows you’d need to love ‘em not to laugh at some of the crap they come out with.

    Politics IS different, the characteristics it requires are many but an unpunctured ego is probably one of them. It is also different ‘cos the public can sack them – but until very recently – whether politicians talked crap or were up to no good won them votes.

    The electorate have got the politicians they deserve. Come 2011 will any of this matter?

    By 2011 Gregory will have paid his wife 5 years rent, pocket the profits and then sell the property with a large capital gains benefit from you guys. Ditto for the Ian Og extended family. I doubt farmer Billy will be as profitable. There are probably many others – and that’s not counting the salaries kept within the family circle.

    It’s easy to see why it matters to MLA’s – but is anyone suggesting Campbell, Dodds or Paisley won’t be returned at the next election? Not a bit of it! Nor will it make a jot of difference that a party’s members cleared up a crime scene murder so that murderers still walk the streets free to pick up their war pensions paid out in crisp Northern Bank notes!

  • observer

    Interesting question from Bonarlaw regarding how many are up to the standard that should be expected for an MLA. Many of these people must think that they have won the lottery and its just a case of finding as many ways as possible to get public money through the front door of their homes. A large proportion of these representives couldn’t hold down a decent job or indeed get one in the real world. Many are retired on generous pensions. I know a few that can barely read and write but their party ticket gets them elected. I have seen a few letters written by one of them and they were laughable with regard to spelling and use of words. Little wonder none of them want to rock any boats up at Stormont. Its a joke to see how many former super prods, especially in the DUP, who have become the sort of people who the Alliance Party could almost welcome with open arms!! Where did all the old rhetoric about Sinn Fein/IRA and all the ranting about Section 75 etc etc etc go?

  • Crataegus

    Bonarlaw

    but out of the 108 (108!) how many are up to it?

    I can think of a lot who definitely aren’t, but for obvious reasons I won’t list them.

    Recently I have mentioned to a number of them (that I have the misfortune of being in the company of) some concerns that I have regarding the running of the various departments related to development, the need for co-ordination, priorities and clear objectives. I have mentioned the possibility that some may be acting in a manner that could be challenged in court etc etc. They had not the slightest idea what I was talking about or implying and worse than that had absolutely NO interest. In my experience most MLA’s really don’t care about real issues.

    We have created a professional class of politicians so let’s pay them a professional wage and remove the ability to cheat the expenses.

    I don’t think the word professional properly describes most of our politicians. Part of the problem is they have spent so long in the introverted complexity of NI politics, and all its self serving jargon that some have lost touch with reality. I am less than happy to pay many of them. The problem is that election here simply return more of the same. There must be a better way to proceed so we get some real expertise and ability.

  • Don Quixote

    BonarLaw – I agree, MLA’s should be paid more. Making the job part-time will mean the job just won’t be done properly. What is needed is a much higher calibre of public representative – those who know business, difficulties in communities and industrial sectors – and people who can; listen, assimilate information and explain their positions.

    Making it a part-time job for the amateur is the last thing we need – particularly since NI is public sector heavy and many of the people with these skills are expressly prohibited from politics.

    Increasing pay isn’t enough – openness and transparency in party politics is also needed. NI doesn’t have the high standards that can reveal (much less regulate) how parties are funded. Nor is there any visibility on how they spend public money given them to enable their roles as public representatives. At the very least the Assembly should not be paying out using standards below those of Westminster – and the Assembly’s reports of MLA expenditure should be as least as detailed as those for the House of Commons.

    This too is not enough.

    NI has way too many government departments and an insane number of local councils. It causes public confusion – people don’t know what department is responsible for what. Reduce the number of departments to 5 – 6 with justice. Reduce the number of councils to a max of 7 – and don’t split Belfast into a gerrymander of sectarian politics. The city exists and needs organised on that basis.

    Doing this reduces the number of Assembly statutory committees by half. Scotland can do it – why can’t we? Once you’ve cut the committees – set up a standing committee that considers public petitions and force the MLA’s to listen and explain.

    After this – reduce the number of MLA’s per constituency from 6 to 5 – a total of 90. Then require all elected to resign any local council memberships.

    I hate to say this – I’ve just watched the news and find myself in one of those rare occasions when I’m in agreement with Reg! MLA’s should not be required to vote themselves pay increases – it brings their roles in to disrepute – and they don’t need any help in that regard. Set MLA pay to change with the RPI.

    Crat – you’re playing to the gallery. What are you suggesting – we drop democracy and put the “experts” in? Didn’t we try that for 30 years?

  • Danny O’Connor

    Is he suggesting that he was paying rent for what he considers to be an extension to his home.It gets worse.He should stop digging.

  • joeCanuck

    One of the reasons they say is MLA’s need to trust their employees.

    I guess that rules out giving them chauffeurs then.

  • realst

    Billy not having obtained planning permission will have the spinn off in not being liable for an increase in rates which will open another avenue to be investigated.
    After all this lost revenue from rates will have a direct finiancial negative effect to HIS local councils ability to supply essentual services.
    Which have to bring his honesty and integrity into question.
    Perhaps time to build purpose built offices on council owned land to whom the rent could be paid directly and in turn allow profits back into council funds.

  • Crataegus

    Don Quixote

    Crat – What are you suggesting – we drop democracy and put the “experts” in? Didn’t we try that for 30 years?

    I am truely and utterly unimpressed by the ability of most of our MLA’a. (Some are are very capable.) Keeping the structures as they are is not going to lift the standard.

    No we have not had experts running the place for 30 years we have been run by Civil Servants and the unaccountable. We have had government minsters who are here today and gone tomorrow.

    There has to be a way of involving people with very real and specific expertise. £52000 is not going to do it. Imagine you run a successful small company are you going to drop that to take up politics for £520000? The public mood is fickle and in 5 years, who knows,and you could be voted out. In the interim what has happened to your business?

    Yes the Civil Service are excluded from politics and that is problematic, but the structures you accept exclude most business people. In addition there is an understandable reticence for anyone in business to get involved in politics.

    Totally agree with you about the number of Departments etc, really does need to be reduced, and in the past have frequently argued for coherent council areas including a greater Belfast so that services can be properly coordinated.

  • realst

    sorry my last thought on building offices on Council land would be a no goer as well.
    As the profits would go back to the control of the same criminals.
    I had forgotten, if you ask any county council for a breakdown of your rates bill, they will not give it up as the LAW says they don`t have to.

  • Don Quixote

    Now that the media may have had their pound of flesh on MLA property charges and nepotism can I point to the published MLA expense claims??

    For those with an idle moment the figures are worth scanning – think of it as eyebrow exercise!

    How is it that most of our MLA’s have almost identical office running costs? The max amount they could claim was £48,000 – and – wonder of wonders – the vast majority claim exactly that or are within 10% of it.

    A parting gift from Mr Hain was to raise this limit to 70 thousand or so – £72,000? I’m not sure if many Members have a large enough family to spend this!

    Then – take a look at the mileage claims paid out to some. Some MLA’s charge little and a few nothing at all – but there are others ..

    Pat Doherty – over £15k last year, £14k the year before and over £21k the year before that (when the Assembly was suspended). OK – Fermanagh is far away – but Michelle Gildernew charged £10.6k last year. Do Pat and Michelle not talk? Could they share a car now and then? Pat drove over 50K miles last year – which is not far short of the mileage of a busy taxi man. If Pat and Michelle don’t want to share a car – surely the Assembly could stretch to buying Pat a GPS – he must get lost a lot. While they’re at Halfords – get Tommy Gallagher one too – he must be following Pat.

    I shouldn’t just focus on the country folk – one way streets, multi-lane carriageways, roundabouts, feeder lanes and traffic lights can be confusing. Our more urban (if not ‘urbane’) MLA’s are also in their cars for long periods.

    Gerry Kelly coming in from North Belfast to the East of the city clocked up a mileage charge costing £7k – 17.5k miles and that’s before he’s taken his wife out shopping. Then again – perhaps she’s found a quicker way of getting to the shops! Dallat comes from Derry for a little more and Deeny come in from Tyrone for much less.

    But, it’s not only Gerry K. spending his time driving, Fra McCann clocked up more than 20k miles driving at a cost of over £8k. I hope he was giving his colleagues Jennifer McCann and Paul Maskey a lift – but they were just elected a month. Perhaps Jennifer and Paul gave Fra a tip – they both managed to extract the max of £4k in office costs just after being elected.

    I could be accused of being cruel when wondering about Mitchel McLaughlin’s mileage charge of £10.4k. South Antrim may not be far from the Assembly – but it’s a new area to him. I just hope he doesn’t ask for directions from Sue Ramsey – she clocked up £8.8k in charge coming in from West Belfast.

    Yeah, yeah – I know – this isn’t fair. These MLA’s are out visiting their constituents at all hours of the day and night.

    Just like ex-MLA’s; T. O’Reilly (£15.9k – Fermanagh), M. Robinson (£11.1k – South Belfast!!!) and M. Copeland (£8.5k – East Belfast!!!).

  • Belfast Gonzo

    So let me get this straight: Billy Armstrong in on the committee scrutinising the decisions made by the Department on planning permission… but he doesn’t have planning permission for his own office?

  • Danny O’Connor

    Belfast Gonzo
    he may be trying to argue that it is an extension to his house, and may be so small as to be allowed as permitted development.this then begs the question why was he paying rent for his own home.

  • 0b101010

    What’s pathetic is that everyone knows what these characters are like, but they’ve all been safely elected over the length of their political careers by an electorate happy to sleepwalk into voting booths. As Don has already said, we get the government we deserve — we get the government we keep asking for.

  • pia lugum

    A local wag said in 1998 when the boul’ Billy was elected that ‘there was as much material in Moygashel as to make a hat big enough for Glynnis to wear at church to celebrate’.

    Now that they have both been outed for claiming out of the public’s pockets for exorbitant rent for a wooden portacabin which has no planning permission and for which rates were consequently avoided, it seems to me that a lengthy period of sackcloth and ashes are required.

    To show remorse Billy must resign from the Assembly forthwith and the UUP must start to seriously cleanse itself of this unhappy saga. Anything else is cowardice.

  • Truth & Justice

    The UUP are trying to claim to be sweaky clean but they are obviously not

  • pia lugum

    When the boul’ Billy MLA, a member of the assembly’s committee advising on planning, works on the premise that a house extension does not need planning approval then I guess now is a good time for me to order a timber frame extension for my bit of a cottage.
    Might as well get it done now before the rules change.
    Thank you Billy for your tremendous lead!

  • Crataegus

    This all boils down to standards in public office and many unfortunately are being found to be lacking.

    Question is; is this likely to damage their political careers? In most cases probably not. For some pulling a fast one on expenses against the British may even be seen as an electoral asset. This is a sad reflection on the electorate and erodes confidence in the very concept of Democracy. We the electorate should expect better and if we don’t what possibility is there of improvement?

    There needs to be a better way of monitoring this and fraud obviously means the person is not fit, but investigations of fraud should result in automatic suspension pending investigation.

    With regards mileage, as someone who pays mileage it really does not take long to add up. What I think would be useful is to expect MLAs to use public transport for their main journeys up to the hill. Perhaps then we would see an increased interest in the Service provided.

  • oops!!

    Sweaky??????

  • JD

    This is a scam, well known within political circles. Once elected your spouse obtains a property, you rent it off her for your constituency office, that pays the mortgage, hey presto at the end of the process you own the property and pension is secured. Nice work if you can get it Gregory.

  • joeCanuck

    I guess embarrassment isn’t in some of our MLA’s emotional toolkit.

  • Paul P

    “Once elected your spouse obtains a property, you rent it off her for your constituency office, that pays the mortgage, hey presto at the end of the process you own the property and pension is secured.”

    And what’s the big problem with that?

  • JD

    As a taxpayer I do not feel that my hard earned wages should be used to increase the family property portfolio of already well payed politicians. Paul if you do not have a problem with this abuse of the public purse then you must be related to the Campbells.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Nepotism, corruption on a massive scale that would make all the hypocrisy over Johnny foreigners lack of embarrassment pale into the shade.

    Unionists really are loyal to the crown after all! Perhaps mainly the one produced on behalf of HM treasury.

  • Elvis Parker

    Mark
    ‘Nearly all are claiming well above that for shitholes in the sticks.’
    Prince Eoghan – in terms of rent the Shinners are the worst culprits actually

  • JD

    Elvis, explain how Sinn Fein are at fault over rents.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Almost everything we have been privy to *so far* points at Unionists. Considering how under the spotlight SF seem to be, I would be surprised if they were abusing the system too much. Then again, who are the ones supposed to be loyal to the crown again?

  • Screwball

    Cash before the sash Eoghan. One shows true loyalty to the queen by keeping as man portrates of her as possible in your wallet. As for Republicans, well as a taxi driver who did the double once told me “I’m a republican dude, it’s my duty to defraud the brit government”

  • Danny O’Connor

    maybe its a new version of the old children’s programme Portland Bill-only it’s now portacabin Bill

  • Paul

    JD,

    I confirm that I am definitely NOT related to the Campbells. A costituency office is an essential service needed for elected representatives to meet the needs of their constituents. Public money is and should be used to pay for this. As long as rent is paid at commercial rates then it matters not who owns the building. The uplift on any property value is not paid for by public money. We do live in a capitalist market economy, and for that I’m glad. If an MLA sees away of benefiting through shrewd business then fair play to them as long as it is within the law. It isn’t costing the public purse anymore than renting from a stranger.

  • pia lugum

    Paul

    Presumably the constituency office could as easily be rented from a constituent outwith the MLA’s immediate family so that in principle the wider public has a chance of tendering for this facet of government service.

    It is still really odious that the MLA or MP or even both should be feathering their own nests to such an extent. Some of the ‘shrewd’ financial arrangements are obviously contrivances!

    Where in this all is any respect or care shown to the voting public?

  • joeCanuck

    The amount of rent paid by Junior and his Da seems to be very excessive according to most commentators, including, we are told, members of his own party in the Assembly.
    Now Junior tells us that it was fair market value.
    Remember he told us the same about his second home price – fair market value.
    It would be interesting to know exactly how much he paid for it.
    There might be some dodgy valuers about.

  • joeCanuck

    Which reminds me of an old hoary one:

    If you ask a mathematician what one plus one equals, he will say “two”.
    If you ask an accountant the same question he will say “What do you want it to be?”

  • CasualLurker

    Give Billy Armstrong a break. He was entitled to claim £48,000 but he kept costs down as tight as he could so no-one could say he claimed the full whack. As the record shows, he only claimed £47,970.41 ….

  • suchard

    I think the Commissioners of Inland Revenue might have missed a chunk of capital gains tax and they must not forget the arrears at 40% up to the end of this and previous tax years if applicable.Also has the rental income been declared and the VAT treated in a correct manner. There are heavy penalties for tax evasion. Nolan wants to buy a dictionary thicker than his wallet and look up corruption. Naievity is a quality a journalist should not possess. Yet Henry Kelly and Mike Nesbitt make up a trio of “BUCK IDIOTS”

  • JD

    Paul, if you view this scam as shrewd business rather than feathering your own nest, then that’s your perogative so carry on voting DUP. I frankly see this as abuse of a flawed system by people who are claiming to be pious with our money. I resent my taxes being used to pay for some MLA’s property portfolio and retirement package on top of the retirement package they will automatically recieve for being an MLA for 3 years. Why are people cynical? because some politicians who wax lyerical about morals are clearly scaming all of us.

  • rural dweller

    So let me get this right.Billy Armstrong has an office/extension which he pays his wife rent,he has no planning permission for his office or sign,he employs his wife and daughter,his other daughter tried to avoid planning permission on her business in his house,he claims all but £30 from the maximum office allowances of £48K and he sits on the committee that scrutinises planners. What is he doing wrong!!!
    Is he not an embareesment to the UUP. Reg needs to act and remove this man rather than write letters to the PM pleading to appoint a commission to deal with MLA’s pay which really means we want more money but get someone else to award it to us. Reg we are watching how you deal with Portacabin Billy.

  • joeCanuck

    Shame on some of you.
    Remember the Lord said

    “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s portacabin.”

  • E eye E eye yo

    The fact that Billy is not sure wether he has an office or an extension just goes to show the quality of the UUP. It doesn’t matter what it is,it still needs planning permission. If the planning office are not aware of an application then the rates office will not have been informed so Billy would have paid no rates. Great idea of Billy to start a rates strike.Does the environment committee,which Billy sits on, not have an overseeing role on the rates department?
    Would this be called “inside trading”.

  • “Why are people cynical?”

    JD, take a look at Bushmills Conservation – Wha’s Lik Us (updated with photos – click ‘blight’) and Blot on the Landscape to see how well the planners, local politicians and ministers are protecting our conservation zones and areas of outstanding natural beauty. Bushmills is designated as a gateway to the Giant’s Causeway – but who’d want to stop in a place like this!!

  • Crataegus

    Before we get too high and mighty why shouldn’t someone be able to use part of their house for business.

    If his extension is less than 75cu.m (if detached) then it is permitted development unless it is greater than 3.6m high within 3.6m of the boundary and the noon is in the third quadrant when the foundations were laid. Something like that.

    Think of the advantages of working from home,
    no commercial rates,
    no rent,
    less travel.

    Environmentally very friendly and then he has to go and blow it.

    When you work from home in normal tax returns you are allowed some token costs so one would imagine a similar situation should apply for expenses.

  • JD

    Not the same Crataegus,

    If you are running a business you are not being funded by the taxpayer to do so. If you are using your own money then you are free to use your home as a business or employ relatives, things get mach more dubious if the public are funding it.

  • pia lugum

    Billy might scam the Mid-Ulster UUP to some extent but his ineptitude for probity in handling public money is pretty obvious to all. All of us, that is!

    Now it is over to the gentlemen of the Planning Department to pursue the flagrant breaching of the regulations.

    And it is over to the gentlemen of the Rates Collection Agency to pursue the consequential ten years of unpaid rates.

    And it is over to the gentlemen of the Inland Revenue to investigate any corresponding breaches of taxation returns over the past 10 years.

    And it is over to the gentlemen of the media to illuminate cases such as this so that the taxes collected from the working man and woman to finance MLAs and MPs are used in an efficient manner.

    And it is over to the gentlemen of the UUP to purge themselves of this rather parasitical appendage – although I rather suspect that they will prove to have the least teeth of all in the end. I think Empey must have left the country!

    Perhaps someone will know of the relevant official addresses of the above to copy this link to so that the full rigours of the law are brought into play.

    The public purse has to be protected from any taint of fraud or evasion and these are the people who are tasked to act.

  • Crataegus

    JD

    If you are running a business you are not being funded by the taxpayer to do so. If you are using your own money then you are free to use your home as a business or employ relatives, things get much more dubious if the public are funding it.

    I know!

    Hence; “When you work from home in normal tax returns you are allowed some token costs so one would imagine a similar situation should apply for expenses”.

    What I was trying to say was if you work from home you should only be charging some nominal expenses as you would against tax and not as our enlightened MLA has been doing. I was also trying to make the point that centring his activity at home should reduce his need to travel and associated costs!

    On a general point about working from home I am strongly of the view that we should be encouraging more people to do so. Lots of reasons but well off topic.

  • Don Quixote

    Cross-referencing the office rentals revealed by David Gordon’s FoI query with the DFP’s 5th Valuation List (as at 31/03/07) reveals some curious results. Some of the office addresses (like Billy Armstrong’s discussed above) are registered as private properties and include:

    Armstrong Billy (UUP), Prospect House, Croagh Rd, Stewartstown, BT71 5JH (£123.00 House (Agricultural)) RENT £4,200.00
    Bresland Allan (DUP), 51 Main Street, Newtownstewart BT78 4AD (£136 House Outbuildings Yard, or 51A Shop £2,500) RENT £6,000.00 RATES £714.21
    Brollie Francie (SF), 10 Church Street, Kilrea, BT51 5QU (£105 House Outbuilding Garden) RENT £4,160.00 RATES £1,784.73
    McCarthy Kieran (AP), 7 Main St, Kircubbin, Newtownards, BT22 2SS (£105.00 house) RENT £5,400.00
    McQuillan Adrian (DUP), 7 Moneydig Park, Garvagh, BT51 5JP (£165.00 House Outbuilding Garden) RENT £1,200.00
    Newton Robin (DUP), 149 Lower Braniel Road, Belfast BT5 7NN (£250.00 House Outbuilding Garden) RENT £9,600.00

    More curious still is that some of the office addresses can’t be found in the valuations database. For some MLA’s this is because the address detail needed hasn’t been provided; e.g., the house number) but other addresses just don’t exist in the database:

    Butler Paul (SF), W2 Colin Centre, Stewartstown Road, Belfast (insufficient address detail)
    Dallat John (SDLP), 11 Bridge St, Kilrea, Co Londonderry, BT48 6JZ (no number 11 – odd numbers start at 55)
    Dallat John (SDLP), Shop Unit, Newton Square, Limavady, BT49 (insufficient address detail)
    Dodds Nigel (DUP) 210 Shore Road, Belfast, BT15 3QB (no number 210, 206 is house and 212 are offices)
    Donaldson Jeffrey (DUP), The Old Town Hall, 29 Castle Street, Lisburn BT27 4DH (postcode not found. No number 29. No.’s 27A, B, C, D E and 31 is BT27 4SP)
    Hamilton Simon (DUP), 1 Bridge Street Link, Comber (address not found)
    McCann Jennifer (SF), W2 Colin Centre, Stewartstown Road, Belfast (insufficient address detail)
    McCausland Nelson (DUP), 256 Ballysillan Road, Belfast, BT14 7QT (no. 227 is highest no. in Cliftonville, No. 256 in Ballysillan not found in database).
    McClarty David (UUP), Irish Green Street, Limavady, BT49 9AA (House no. needed – no. 9 is described as Advice Centre).
    McIlveen Michelle (DUP), Unit 1, Alexander House, Bridge Street (insufficient address detail – no town or postcode given)
    McQuillan Adrian (DUP), 55 Main Street, Garvagh, BT51 5AE (Not found – no number 55, 53 is youth centre and 57 is shop, 155 Main St. is private house with postcode BT51 5AB)
    Poots Edwin (DUP), Former Town Hall, Castle St, Lisburn, BT27 4SP (need house no.)
    Robinson George (DUP), Units 3 & 4 Sindy’s Shopping Mall, Catherine St, Limavady, BT49 9DB (need house no.)
    Savage George (UUP), 2 Castlewellan Road, B’Bridge, BT32 4AX (No number 2 found in database, no.’s start at 7).

  • DQ, there’s a #11 Bridge Street Kilrea in the 5th Revaluation with John Dallat’s office listed. It’s next door to #13, a licensed restaurant.

    You might also note there’s at least one curiosity re the ‘DUP office’ in Bushmills.

    “Paisley Ian Jnr
    DUP
    9-11 Church Street, Ballymena, BT44 8QU
    £28,600.00
    £2,383.33
    Paisley Rev
    DUP
    42a Main Street, Bushmills, BT57 8QA
    £2,100.00
    £175.00

    Paisley Rev
    DUP
    9-11 Church Street, Ballymena, BT44 8QU
    £28,600.00
    £2,383.33″

    The correct address is 142A, Main Street, and the office in other places is linked to IPjr not IPsr. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere this appears to be a rates-exempt office as it is branded “Bushmills Community Advice Centre”. I don’t understand why the DUP removed its name from this office; the only benefit would appear to be that of rates exemption. The office is also used by DUP councillors.

  • pia lugum

    I can’t help but be amused by the proud way the the boul’ Billy claims that all of his four staff are employed by him at great cost – even if it hurts his own pocket!
    It appears however that not even one of them, including Billy, merit any points on knowledge on basics like planning regulations or rating requirements.

    How come such a group can day and daily lord it over the vast bulk of their ordinary working neighbours who have to earn our every penny by the sweat of our brows?

    The deafening silence of the UUP on this 10 year-old Mid-Ulster running sore speaks volumes.
    Has Reg Empey flitted over to Portugal for a wee think and is there more scandal to bury?
    Will Billy be forced to fall on his own graip come Monday or will Reg actually line him up for a gong?

    At least the DUP, for all their inconsistencies, knew when the game was up with Ian Og!

  • Drumcairn

    Pia Lugum
    Could agree more.It is obvious that Reg is fully behind Billy.What other party leader would allow a member under a cloud of allegations to remain in post. The laughable thing about Reg is allowing Billy to remain on the environment committee which oversees planning policies but then again the Deputy leader of UUP defended Billy last week. This shows the lengths that the UUP go to “clean up” their act.
    While the rates agency and planners are investigating Billy it might also be an idea if the local council’s building control was contacted to check if Billy has approval for his Hut/office/extension. If Billy hasnt then he might not be insured.