Monday 18 May 2009

Lazarowicz - an honourable man

Mark Lazarowicz - a fine, upstanding gentleman (except when he sits down, obviously) - was determined to get himself into the story about MPs fiddling their expenses - and he did. Screaming "me too" he flung himself in front of the oncoming expenses train, offering to pay back money that he had claimed properly, but now thought was too much before he realised he'd left his chequebook in Edinburgh so the cheque was *ahem* in the post, before realising he'd got carried away in all the excitement of the chase and he really shouldn't do anything but he was going to do it anyway because he'd said that he was going to do what he didn't have to do and so he'd now do it in spite of not having to do it, just so you all know that he's above board. Still with me? Good.

Spreading rumours
For some reason, in the middle of the madness he'd created, he decided to make the bizarre claim that
I have a family home in Edinburgh and have never claimed a penny of taxpayers' money for that.

when no-one, not even the witchsmeller pursuivant of the Daily Telegraph had suggested he had. Mr Lazarowicz has told us there is nothing wrong, and Mark is an honourable man.

You would think that, having made a mess of it, he would stay quiet and try not to make it any worse, but I suppose he reasoned that ambition should be made of sterner stuff. He has released some details of his expenses claims in today's Evening News, and I was dragged, kicking and screaming, to examine them.

Why only four years?
Every MP has in their possession just now the past five years of their expenses claims, provided by the Fees Office to allow them to be checked before release under FOI and Mark has released four of those years - I don't know why he hasn't released the fifth year or, indeed, all of his expenses given that he was first elected to the Commons in 2001 and he will have had to keep those records for income tax purposes. Why release half of it when you can release all of it?

That pesky repayment
Then there's the legal fees for extending his lease. He claimed £5,355.63 but the fees notes that he hosted on his own website indicate that he only paid out £2,698.23 - that's £2,657.40 of a difference. Interestingly, in his statement on allowances he says
The sum he will pay back is approximately £2675

In other words, he'll be paying back the amount he overclaimed by. Sadly, it would appear that, far from being above board as he has claimed, Mr Lazarowicz is attempting to repay before being caught. An honourable man.

The mortgage interest
Also in that story in Edinburgh Evening News is the claim that he renegotiated the mortgage on his London property when he extended the lease, reducing mortgage interest to £164 a month. The fees notes on his website quite clearly indicate that the extension of the lease was finalised in May 2007, so he would have paid one payment at the old, higher rate of interest and 11 at the new lower rate of interest.

Taking the previous year as the benchmark for his high cost month, he would have claimed about £1,287 in mortgage interest for that month, 11 months at £164 is £1,804 for the rest of the year - a total of £3,091 for the whole year, but he claimed £14,965.41 - apparently an overclaim of almost £12,000.

But Mark is an honourable man
O judgement! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

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