If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Expenses, personal

A comment in the previous post led me to think about my own experiences with claiming expenses. I have never been in a job where I had a lot of expenses to claim; mine were usually the odd overnight stay and the usual travelling costs, and so on. So I can't claim any vast experience of the subject.

The only time I have ever had an expense claim refused was when I had to visit my Head Office for a week or so to carry out some risk management work. I was booked into a Travelodge a few miles away - nothing but the best for me, I hope you will agree. Travelodges don't have their own restaurants, but they are always located near to a Little Chef, where a suitable breakfast can be obtained for an additional charge.

On this occasion, I crossed the petrol forecourt and sat down in the Little Chef. They had a special deal on - full English breakfast, plus a pot of tea and a copy of the Daily Express for, I think, £7.99. Since this was well within the 'reasonable' allowance for a breakfast, I ordered it and forgot about it. Unfortunately, the individual items were itemised on the bill. My expenses claim was returned to me with the comment of "please re-submit, deducting 70p for the newspaper - we do not pay for employees' reading material".

I did as instructed and did, indeed, feel slightly guilty at the thought that someone considered I had tried it on. I think it goes right back to early childhood, when I was taught that greed was bad, and 'trying it on' to see what you could get was thoroughly poor behaviour. I know it was only a copy of a newspaper (I don't even read the Express normally, dammit), but I understood the principle all too well. 70p or £70,000 - it's the same principle.

Which brings me back to the MPs and their claims for astronomical amounts (Harry Cohen's £70,000 would have been four years' wages for me at the time) on the flimsiest of excuses. If anyone in private industry has tried claims like these, they would have been sacked and probably reported to the police. For MPs, it is something to which they are 'reasonably entitled', and they have the sheer neck to go out in public and try to justify it.

One rule for them.

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