On expenses

DOES Lib Dem London Assembly member Mike Tuffrey think he’s on the trail of the  next big expenses scandal? He used the last Mayor’s Question Time to ask Boris Johnson how his mayoral press man got to claim for a £250-a-night hotel stay at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester last year.

A check of the rules and Tuffrey reminds Boris that: “Up to 3 Star hotels should be used. Actual cost up to a maximum of £150 per night in Greater London and £110 per night elsewhere.”

The Mayor’s response was effectively: Calm down, calm down. Guto Harri has broken no rules. “The Director of Communications accompanied me to the Conservative Party Conference where I delivered a major policy speech and undertook more than 20 media interviews,” said Johnson. “We stayed at the official conference hotel, a base used by conference members and located within the security cordon, to maximise the opportunities available in a short visit. Guto Harri’s claim was approved at the time and in accordance with GLA policy that staff pay a share of their conference expenses when they are a member of the host party.”

Oh – and for good measure, Johnson added: “Mr Harri is not a member of any political party.”

Case closed. The exchange, however, did remind me of a case I know about in a north London borough – not Camden – where public money was used on hotel fees to put up ‘political advisers’ during the conference season. Unlike Harri, these guys were explicitly signed up to political parties and it struck me that they should have paid for their own hotel rooms at a city break get-togethers with other members.

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