Jim Allister: rent or mortgage payments?

Slugger hears that Bairbre de Brun is preparing to disclose her European expenses for the last year (at the same time the Speaker of the House of Commons has asked the costs submitted over the last four at Westminster to see if they are ‘reasonable’ – ed) Right, for those of you who missed it, there was this little exchange on the News Letter’s web chat with Jim Allister this morning (I suspect the wily MEP had the measure of the person asking the question, but they may have ‘got’ him, just the same):

12:07 [Comment From Big Andy] The DUP have been asking who owns your constituency office, amongst other expesnes [sic] related matters. Why will you not answer that question to clear things up for the public? Will you answer it now?

12:08 Good afternoon Dundela! Answered long ago. It is no secret that I bought my office with my own money.

But, according to one reader, on Allister’s own blog it has him down for claiming £4895.80 in rent for his office;

Office allowance:

This standard allowance is also meant to cover constituency travelling expenses, as MEPs, unlike MPs (who get 40p per mile), do not get a mileage allowance within their constituency. Finding that the allowance is insufficient to meet the full costs of his office operation, Jim Allister does not use any of it for travel. Unlike MPs, MEPs do not get free postage or free computers.
In 2008 Jim Allister received £26,407.07 into his office account from Europe. The main outlay of same was as follows:-

Telephone: £3254.59; Postage: £2650.82; Electricity: £1577.46; Water: £296.94; Rates: £4592.67; Rent: £4895.80; Office Equipment rental: £3900.00; Office supplies: £1512.10; Gas: £780.00; Computer repairs and upkeep: £1457.22; Cleaning: £400; Sundries: £600; Commercial bin collection: £245.62; additional office furnishings: £550; laptop purchase: £600.

That rent looks more than reasonable to me, even if he is ‘renting’ from himself. But there is an election on (as if hadn’t you noticed, so all these petty differences are likely to be seized up. Sinn Fein believes the issue of expenses is playing pretty well for them on the doorsteps, and may well then put pressure of the other sitting MPs to stump up with their actual costs (as opposed to the amounts the EU allows them to claim, regardless of actual expenditure.

Europe will have to remain a matter of self discipline for UK MEPs, since this is a very ‘British’ matter. The French and the Italians, I suspect, would never cede to the kind of reforms being put through Wesminster just now. But there are whispers that Stormont is next for the big journalistic blow out. Those MLAs with oversight of the European expenses system would be well advised to look to their laurels now and take pre-emptive action now, before they find themselves in the same unfortunate position of Michael Martin.

The paradigm has shifted; “All the conventions are now finished…”

, , ,

  • Carson’s Cat

    Jim Allister has clearly over the expenses issue tried to position himself as the kind of ‘anti’ candidate, not in the sense we usually think of, but in the sense that UKIP are likely to benefit from across the water.

    He’s been putting out repeated statements on double jobbing (has he done any legal work whilst an MEP?), on family dynasties (Newsletter webchat also revealed he employs family) and on expenses.

    He’s also running on a slogan of “integrity” and “principle” and clearly believed he could snaffle a few votes by being Mr anti-expenses. Trouble is however, that MPs are finally turning around the system and will no longer be able to profiteer from expenses but Allister is paying himself rent.

    £5k may not be unreasonable – provided of course that’s the only thing he’s been paying himself….., but its still shows a snout which is in the trough – and unfortunately for him its there whilst the other snouts are pulling out (maybe not voluntarily, but there you go).

    I suspect that this is only the start of Allister (and Nicholson’s) woes as the decision by deBrun to publish her expenses puts them on a sticky wicket.

    I think that deBrun’s decision shows something interesting. Many unionists labour under the perception that the republican electorate don’t really give a stuff about expenses because its all viewed as taking as much as you can from the Brits. However, SF must be taking a bit of flak that their people are getting rich whilst the workers suffer….

    That’s the only explanation which makes sense in terms of her as an MEP declaring. There’s nothing to gain against the SDLP given that they don’t have a sitting MEP to compare against and its unlikely that she’s doing it to scoop many votes from either Jim.

    Whatever the reasons it gives Ulster’s 2 Jims a few problems. Jimmy Nic has been gallivanting around the world courtesy of the European Parliament and you have to wonder if he’s going to be very keen on that.

    Allister of course may also have a few more uncomfortable expenses than the ones he chose to declare on his website. The cost of all the flights both Jims have taken to Europe should be an interesting declaration, should they decide to come forth…. after all we can just deduct those costs from the £1k (ish) they claim everytime they flew to see just how much they profiteerd ‘on the fly’…..

    Wonder if Allister is going to be the champion of transparency now that Babs has put him behind the 8 ball….

  • Carson’s Cat

    Jim Allister has clearly over the expenses issue tried to position himself as the kind of ‘anti’ candidate, not in the sense we usually think of, but in the sense that UKIP are likely to benefit from across the water.

    He’s been putting out repeated statements on double jobbing (has he done any legal work whilst an MEP?), on family dynasties (Newsletter webchat also revealed he employs family) and on expenses.

    He’s also running on a slogan of “integrity” and “principle” and clearly believed he could snaffle a few votes by being Mr anti-expenses. Trouble is however, that MPs are finally turning around the system and will no longer be able to profiteer from expenses but Allister is paying himself rent.

    £5k may not be unreasonable – provided of course that’s the only thing he’s been paying himself….., but its still shows a snout which is in the trough – and unfortunately for him its there whilst the other snouts are pulling out (maybe not voluntarily, but there you go).

    I suspect that this is only the start of Allister (and Nicholson’s) woes as the decision by deBrun to publish her expenses puts them on a sticky wicket.

    I think that deBrun’s decision shows something interesting. Many unionists labour under the perception that the republican electorate don’t really give a stuff about expenses because its all viewed as taking as much as you can from the Brits. However, SF must be taking a bit of flak that their people are getting rich whilst the workers suffer….

    That’s the only explanation which makes sense in terms of her as an MEP declaring. There’s nothing to gain against the SDLP given that they don’t have a sitting MEP to compare against and its unlikely that she’s doing it to scoop many votes from either Jim.

    Whatever the reasons it gives Ulster’s 2 Jims a few problems. Jimmy Nic has been gallivanting around the world courtesy of the European Parliament and you have to wonder if he’s going to be very keen on that.

    Allister of course may also have a few more uncomfortable expenses than the ones he chose to declare on his website. The cost of all the flights both Jims have taken to Europe should be an interesting declaration, should they decide to come forth…. after all we can just deduct those costs from the £1k (ish) they claim everytime they flew to see just how much they profiteerd ‘on the fly’…..

    Wonder if Allister is going to be the champion of transparency now that Babs has put him behind the 8 ball….

  • Silverline

    How can you own your office and them claim rent from your epences,sounds a bit fishy to me?

  • ??

    jim A. gets almost £1000 for each return trip, how much does it cost to fly to brussels and where does the rest go?

  • ?/

    just had a quick look for prices for a return trip from belfast to brussels. i did it for this friday as apparently MEPs have to travel at short notice at times.

    Prices E356 – E539

    If I look for a month away prices start from E279
    E

  • Carson’s Cat

    ??
    Just did a quick look at travel options myself. Any prospective MEP could travel to Brussels tomorrow morning & return the day after (how’s that for short notice) for £638.

    That’s travelling on a fully flexible Business class fare on BMI to heathrow and a flexibile Business class ticket on the Eurostar from St Pancras to Brussels.

    Even travelling business-class, booking at the last minute and whatever other expensive options you choose your average MEP would still have about £300 left over. Now that’s a nice little earner.

    Looking forward to the declarations!

  • ABC

    Principle?
    Integrity?

    Don’t think so……

  • ??

    Principle, Intergrity, leftover cash.

  • ??

    Even travelling business-class, booking at the last minute and whatever other expensive options you choose your average MEP would still have about £300 left over. Now that’s a nice little earner……

    so, lets say for arguements sake, your average MEP made 29 return trips this year, even if you only had £250 left over that leaves £7250 – over 5 years that would be £36250….

    tax free

    Time all our MEPs Fess`d up

  • ABC

    ??

    Absolutely! The thing is, if Allister didn’t trouser that much (although I think I recall one poster saying they saw him seated in the cheap seats on the flight to Heathrow) what has he got to fear?

    Also, what has he got to fear from answering questions. He has avoided telling people for nearly a year who owns his office. It now transpires that he bought it with his own money and paid nearly 5k for the use of it LAST YEAR (this is important: was the figure higher in previous years?). He definitely slipped up when he gave the information away on the webchat regarding the office. He can expect others, not only his former colleagues, to pursue him over this matter, given that he chose to set himself up as a paragon of virtue on Nolan last Friday.

  • sam

    Wonder if it was the guys at Dundela- the poor man’s Bob McCartney has blundered right into one hell of a trap. Just the man to negotiate with the Shinners

  • ??

    Somebody get onto fatboy nolan and ask him to investigate this…

  • Mick, why don’t you link to the article on Allister’s blog? It’s been there for several months.

    I don’t think it matters much who owns the office. Is it about right for the size of the premises and can its size be justified?

  • sam

    Any figures for what rent he claimed other years?

  • ABC

    Ahh Nevin, seeker after truth, but only when it concerns the DUP?

    Squeaky bum time at Holywood Road.

  • ??

    I don’t think it matters much who owns the office…

    it does whent the MEP is paying himself £5 grand and also keeping the leftovers from each trip to brussels.

  • “but only when it concerns the DUP?”

    You can check out NALIL blog re. DRD’s Rathlin ferry scandal and my questions to Minister Murphy – who I understand is not a member of the DUP 🙂

  • I’ve not seen any other figures, Sam.

    ??, what difference does it make who owns the office? IIRC it’s about 10% of the rental of the DUP’s Ballymena office for North Antrim.

  • ??

    so jim allister is paying himself £5000 with public money – nice one

  • ??, do you think he should take a leaf out of the DUP book and hand over, say, £50,000?

  • Dave

    He is entitled to claim rent for the use of the office as an MEP. If he didn’t use that office, he could earn rent by letting it, so it can’t be argued that he must suffer a financial loss in order to perform his duties as an MEP. The fact that he owns the building is irrelevant. He is also to be commended for charging a modest rent. There is plenty of scope for him to inflate it to the maximum office costs allowance of €47,352, but he, unlike the DUPers and the Shinners, has not fleeced the taxpayer.

  • TonyB

    Is it not the hypocrisy of Allister that is the story here- the piousness, the number of attacks about MPs’ expenses, the ‘Principle and Integrity’

  • ??

    If he didn’t use that office, he could earn rent by letting it………

    if he wastn an MEP he wouldnt have bought it. MEP pays rent to himself out of public funds.

  • ??

    He is also to be commended for charging a modest rent. …. and how much has has been made out of the flights?

    Time for our MEPs to tell the truth

  • ??

    so Jim has made £5000 rent and possibly a minium of £9000 from his flights for one year . X 5 years you have a grand total of £70,000

    If jim wants to disputes these he can publish the receipts for his flights.

  • Point

    Point of information

    On Inside politics interview of 16/08/08 JA said
    “My family own my constituency office” now the story is slightly different.
    “It is no secret that I bought my office with my own money.”

  • Dave

    ??, how can he inflate his travel allowance when it is a flat-rate allowance per return trip? He can’t.

    He said he gets a flat-rate allowance of circa €1200 per return trip and a distance allowance. He made 29 trips in 2008. Since MEPs aren’t paid on the actual cost of the flight, they, presumably, have to pay the excess themselves and keep the underspend. You can’t blame him for a system that he hasn’t devised and, in the absence of proof to the contrary, hasn’t profitted by.

    Mud won’t stick to Teflon.

  • ??

    Since MEPs aren’t paid on the actual cost of the flight, they, presumably, have to pay the excess themselves and keep the underspend……

    what excess??? you can fly to brussels for £250 quid RETURN – he gets £1100 for each flight. – poss profit of £850 !!!

    You can’t blame him for a system that he hasn’t devised…. so the system is to blame…didnt the guy with the moat say that

  • Dave

    By the way, the annual rent on his constituency office is less than one month’s rent on the Shinner’s townhouse and on Paisley’s constituency office. The man is a saint. 😉

  • Dave

    ??, at the risk of repetition: it is a flat-rate allowance. If the flight costs 1p on Ryanair, their the EU will still pay them 1200. That’s the EU for you. You can’t blame MEPs for that.

  • ??

    so jim gets £5000 rent thank to the tax payer. on top of what is left over from his flights , on top on what is left over from his £250 daily allowance , on top of his £63500 salary.

    £5000 rent + an easy £9000 left from flights = 14,000 a year x 5 years = £70,000 TAX FREE

    Of course jim can publish his receipts for his flights and then everyone will know the truth

  • ??

    You can’t blame MEPs for that.

    ER, he doesnt have to take it you know.. remember principle and integrity n all that

    Next thing you`ll tell us is that he had to have that moat cleaned after all

  • Dave

    Look, flat-rate means that there is no variation on the amount claimed. It isn’t comparable to expenses inflation or worngly claimed expenses because nothing he can do will alter the amount that he is paid per return trip.

  • ??

    nothing he can do will alter the amount that he is paid per return trip. ………..

    how about saying no thanks…. so how much has Jim made from the public on these flights then?

  • Driftwood

    Is he an atheist? Doesn’t seem so, if not
    What church does he belong to?

    Certain churches have a history of this sort of thing.
    The RC’s tend to go for Paedophilia, big time-especially males. Evangelicals tend to go for the dosh.
    Just an observation.

  • DUP Liars

    ??,
    Can you please let us all know what expenses Paisley claimed while an MEP, how much of the travel expenses he returned and also how much the DUP asked Jim Allister to return when he was the DUP MEP?????
    I bet you can’t. In fact, you’re such a sycophant I bet you don’t even reply.

  • Dave

    ??, I agree that a flat-rate travel allowance of circa €1200 for a return trip to the EU parliment is a waste of taxpayers’ money but I don’t agree that it is Jim Allister who is wasting it. He does not determine the rate, so there is no question of him inflating that expense or wrongly claiming it. If you feel that he should return any surplus to the EU or donate it to charity then I suggest you take that up with him.

    The EU would not welcome a cheque from an MEP returning a surplus. As the Chief Accountant to the EU, Marta Andreasen, said: “Opportunities for fraud are open and they are taken advantage of. The most elementary precautions are neither taken nor even contemplated. The reverse is the case. People such as myself, who attempt to bring openness and accountability to the system, are pursued, suspended and dismissed.”

  • Dave

    By the way, she’s the [b]former[/b] Chief Accountant to the EU. She was fired after she attempted to highlight the systematic waste of taxpayers’ money that goes on in the EU.

  • Dave

    Also, if you think the EU squandering €1200 of your money every time an MEP gets on a plane is terrible, have a look at how much of your money the EU squanders every year just to move those MEPs between two buildings:

    [i]Once a month, all M E Ps travel from Brussels to Strasbourg, together with their retinue of interpreters, assistants and general bag carriers. The cost of this caravan – the removal of 732 MEPs back and forth between the two cities – is approx. €200 million. In addition, between 1998 and 2004 the European Parliament paid about €6 million in rent for an empty building, the Belliard complex in Brussels. In early 2006 it was revealed that the Parliament paid between €32 and €60 million too much to rent property in Strasbourg.

    (Die Welt 15.9.06/Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 8.9.06/European Foundation/E U Court of Auditors.) [/i]

  • Silverline

    What about the double standards from J A on the issue of employing family members then we find out he employs his wife and son I thought this guy was whiter than white more like Browner and Browner

  • ??

    ut I don’t agree that it is Jim Allister who is wasting it….

    he doestnt have to accept one penny in expenses.

    Excuses , excuses , excuses – RIP OFF JIM

  • Rory Carr

    The RC’s tend to go for Paedophilia, big time-especially males. Evangelicals tend to go for the dosh.

    How dare you, Driftwood?

    As a baptised Catholic I’ll have you know that we’re as fond of the dosh as any bible-thumper and I’m quite sure that born-agains can kiddie-diddle along with the best of them.

    It is in the drinking, gambling and general carousing stakes that our round-collar fellas tend to have the best of it as the poor oul’ Evangelicals are badly out of practice ever since ol’ misery-guts Calvin.

  • ABC

    Sycophants says a man on the internet at ten minutes to 2am defending Jim Allister who dropped the ball over his expenses. Ironic, non?

  • !!

    The Robinson family are by far a bigger rip off than Jim.

  • ??

    Jim has made up to £70,000 in rent and money left over from flights… time to fess up

  • righteousedward

    Aboslutely shocked by this. I had toyed with the idea of voting for him – he had set himself up as being so holy

    I FEEL BETRAYED. LET DOWN.

    I’ll be voting DUP.

  • cynic

    Biggest mistake big Jim made was not to put his office in the name of his father in law who could then have charged him, lets say, five times the market rent for it out of the Euro public purse. Perhaps if Silverline and ?? could drag themselves away from their DUP paid laptops they could take ten minutes and ring big Jim with information as to how to go about this. Regarding the excess cash left over from his airfares he maybe eats in the same London restaurants that the Robinson’s must use while he waits for connecting flights. Also remember that greenhorn Alister would have learnt all about the system from his then party and his then party leader. Experts I would say in catching the pennies! Can’t wait for the Stormont figures to come out so that the public can see what a cesspool of expense claims are lurking up there.

  • ??

    Saint Jim has been caught – £70000 at least over the last 5 years

  • Carson’s Cat

    Nevin,
    The rent for this office may well be proportionate and reasonable for the size of it. The issue here however is that he owns this property and is paying himself rent.

    Who does he make the cheque payable to then?

    Anyone who listened to Gregory Campbell on Good Morning Ulster yesterday will have heard him asked the same question. He made it clear that a family member owns his office, therefore he isn’t claiming any rent from the public purse to pay for it.

    Kieran McCarthy of Alliance hit the headlines a few months back for the same thing. It led the news on the BBC when it emerged he was using Assembly allownaces to pay his wife (I think) rent for the office. The broadcasters were foaming with anger about this abuse but apparently when its Allister then its ok.

    Not only that, but this is a man who has gone out of his way to paint himself as whiter than white in terms of expenses in recent weeks. Unfortunately when you go out of your way to set yourself up as some paragon of virtue then you should at least meet the standards you are setting for others.

    He has personally profited (above his salary) by virtue of the fact that he is an MEP. That is precisely what the scandal is all about at Westminster. MEPs appear to think that they can slink into the anonymity of Brussels and escape the wrath.

    I’ll be looking forard to seeing deBrun’s expenses. Would be a very strange day if the Shinners were more open transparent, and downright honest, than the man who wouldn’t sit in Government with them ever, under any circumstances.

  • ??

    peter robinson had £15000 over the last 4 years for food, ALlister has nearly £70000 from rent and air fares

  • why08

    Why has Allister only published expenses for 1 year? What about the other 3 and a half years before it?

  • Voter

    peter robinson had £15000 over the last 4 years for food

    Fat C***

  • jims missing r

    maybe ‘gimme gimme gimme’ jim will buy a private jet next, then claim 1200 a pop for each trip to and from brussels.

    oh no, thats a stupid idea, mightn’t be as much left over to stick in his back pocket if he did that!! and he’s only a fortnight left after all.

  • ??

    Its time for Jim to stop giving himself a 5 grand sweetner in rent and give details of every flight to brussels. What happened to the TENs OF THOUSANDS of pounds that went unspent

  • ABC

    Wonder what call me Dave thinks of the fact that Nicholson is the only one of his candidates refusing to publish details of his expenses?

  • ??

    wher are all Jim Allister’s followers now, will someone of them tell him to put up his receipts for his flights.

  • “He made it clear that a family member owns his office, therefore he isn’t claiming any rent from the public purse to pay for it.”

    Have you got that right, CC?

    DUP politician Gregory Campbell has become the latest MLA to confirm that he rents his constituency office from a family member

    The East Londonderry MLA’s Coleraine office is owned by his wife. The rent, claimed from Stormont allowances, is £12,600 per year.

    Mr Campbell said an estate agent was consulted on the rental valuation for the Coleraine premises. ..

    A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “Fra McCann was originally the sole MLA tenant [of an office in Connolly House] at an annual rent of £13,500. source – 22 February 2008

    I’ll say this for Gregory. He was prepared to speak out about the activities of developers when some of his colleagues weren’t. He’s also providing employment whereas some other public representatives provide a very limited service for their constituents.

    “a very strange day if the Shinners were more open transparent, and downright honest”

    That’s what I’m thinking, CC, and then I remind myself about the Republican Movement’s ongoing income from organised crime.

    As for members of the MSM foaming at the mouth why do they remain largely silent about public procurement fiascos? Just like the MLAs on Stormont committees who act like neutered tabbies …

  • cynic

    ??

    All your comments just go to comfirm the fact that you are all greedy fat pigs with your noses so far into the public purse trough that you are all in danger of drowning. Get a proper job, but maybe you weren’t having much luck in the real world!

  • ??

    why is Jim allister hiding his receipts for his flights?

  • Carson’s Cat, the Kieran McCarthy affair is a bit more complicated. There are questions about fair rent, change of use and difference in rates.

  • “why is Jim allister hiding his receipts for his flights?”

    ??, have you contacted the office? I’m in touch with various politicians and parties and I’ve always found Allister’s people courteous, accommodating and capable. For example, they and I helped the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in London resolve the latter’s breach of the Data Protection Act. It took time and patience but the outcome was successful.

  • ??

    surely he should put them on the website? what is he hiding? this is public money.

  • ??, perhaps the Belfast Telegraph is already on the case. Have you considered that your queries might rebound on the DUP? Just look how long that party was the ‘top dog’ in EU elections.

  • Silverline

    I think there is a clear difference about owning your office and claiming rent from yourself and claiming rent from a family member. I think Jim should repair the rent??????????????

  • Silverline, if a fair rent and the rates are paid and the office has the requisite planning permission IMO the ownership is irrelevant.

    What do you feel about the assertion that Gregory Campbell isn’t claiming rent and the story about rent in the Belfast Telegraph? Was Gregory being economical with information about rent that had been claimed from the public purse?

  • Rory Carr

    Whatever suspicions there might be about Jim Allister’s claim for office rent on his expenses I simply cannot see that he has anything to answer for as regards his claims for airline flights.

    In particular the suggestion that he be required to produce his airline ticket receipts for public scrutiny is ridiculous (and downright nasty really). If the European Parliament provides its MEP’s with an allowance of £1,000 per flight then all that is required of him is that he enter a claim for each flight that he made, regardless of cost. How he deals with any surplus that might arise over and above the actual cost of the flight is entirely up to him.

    I really wonder how many of the petty-minded critics of his flight claims have ever returned a portion of car mileage or subsistence allowances to their employers because, “It didn’t cost me that much, boss. I only spent £xx on petrol and I just had a quick kebab for dinner. I had a few pints of Guinness as well, but that’s down to me.”

    Bloody hypocrites.

    p.s. Sorry if I gave Turgon a heart attack by coming to the defence of his Truly Beloved, but fair’s fair, damnit!