As the law enforcement authorities continue their investigations into the expense returns of well north of 20 Tory MPs, the incriminating invoices just keep on coming. The latest target of attention has been the hire of coaches and minibuses, which may all have been charged to CCHQ in London, but which, as the party admitted in the Brecon and Radnor and Gower constituencies, had a cost element which should be charged locally.
Nowhere has the Tory Party had a better chance to correctly charge its coach hire charges than the agreement and invoice presented by Coach Hire UK Europe Limited, from whom the party hired a six seater minibus - with driver - for seven hours each day for the period from 29th April to 6th May 2015 inclusive. This was billed for £260 per day, and the amount for the eight day hire came out at £2,080.
So far, so straightforward, but then came campaigning demands that took the minibus outside the area covered by the initial hire agreement on both days of the last weekend before the General Election. The area visited is specified, and so it might have been expected that the candidate who benefited from the visit should charge it to their expense return. So who were the beneficiaries, and what did they do about it?
On Sunday 3rd May, the minibus visited Hastings, incurring a charge for additional hours and mileage of £122.50. The maths is straightforward: to that should be added the £260 daily hire charge, making a total of £382.50. The candidate was Amber Rudd, who was re-elected the following Thursday. So what does her “Short Campaign” return have for Transport costs? Nothing. No sign of the visiting minibus.
In her case, adding that £382.50 would not bust the spending limit - unless there were other costs involved with the visit, or more visits. But the other constituency visited is a rather different proposition, as this was a visit to Broadstairs, in Thanet South. The additional hours and mileage charge that day came to £147.50, and so Craig Mackinlay’s return should have another £407.50 added on to it.
But that would have bust his spending limit. What is worse is that, as Zelo Street has previously pointed out, Mackinlay’s spending limit already appears to have been bust several times over. This merely asks yet more questions of CCHQ as to why some constituencies were charging coach trips locally during the long campaign, only for them to be switched to being charged nationally later on. And it gets worse still.
Who made use of the minibus? It wasn’t big enough for the RoadTrip 2015 activists - they needed full size coaches, and in any case one might expect six extra activists to just be pointed at the nearest railway station. Was this another SpAd transport? And, if so, were those SpAds still employed as civil servants during the campaign? If they were, then that’s another breach of their code of conduct. To go with all the other breaches.
Those questions just keep on coming. No wonder the Police are still investigating.