Weren’t Bill ‘Double Dipton’ English and other ministers caught rorting the housing allowance system last year? Didn’t the Government revamp the system by giving ministers capped allowances, supposedly to save money and stop rorts? Why then are we, as I predicted, paying more than ever while ministers blatantly rip us off?
Bill ‘Double Dipton’ English’s landlord obviously took pity on him after his housing scandal because he’s no longer claiming $914 a week rent. He claims zero now. Jonathan Coleman, too has suddenly discovered he doesn’t have any housing costs to claim either, despite claiming $477 a week in the first six months of last year. The fact that their claims have evaporated after the rort scandal is more evidence they were never legitimate at all.
Other ministers have also been able to magically reduce their rent claims, which is really lucky: Judith Collins from $886 a week to $775, Anne Tolley from $847 a week to $719, Wayne Mapp from $726 to $500, Paula Bennett from $719, Rodney Hide from $732 to $719, (hmm, that’s a popular rent, eh? We’ll come back to that), Philip Heatley from $946 to $575. Isn’t it awfully convenient that these ministers are able to cut the amount they’re claiming after an expenses scandal. But does the new amount they’re claiming bear any relation to reality? Again, the suspicion has to be they were claiming illegitimate expenses under the old system and are claiming the most they can now, regardless of their actual costs.
Meanwhile, eight ministers have actually increased their housing cost claim: Murray McCully from $495 a week to $719, Tim Groser from $344 to $719, Steven Joyce from nothing to $719, Georgina te Heuheu from $306 to $719, Pansy Wong from $676 to $719, Kate Wilkinson from $694 to $719, John Carter from $607 to $719, Nathan Guy from nothing to $575.
Hmm, I think we’ve found what Lockwood Smith didn’t want us to see. All those ministers claiming $719 a week are claiming precisely the maximum that they can under the new rules. It seems highly doubtful that all that second group of ministers suddenly had huge rent increases, or that the first group had big rent cuts. No, this looks the ministers are simply claiming as much as they can, no doubt for most of them their actual housing costs are much lower.
The same applies for the four ministers all claiming $575 a week each, which bears no resemblance to what they were claiming before. They are clearly claiming as much taxpayer dosh as they can within the new rules, regardless of their actual housing costs.
You can count on two fingers the ministers who aren’t Wellington-based or in Crown-owned houses and haven’t maxed out their housing claim: Wayne Mapp and Jonathan Coleman. I’ll leave you to decide which fingers.
As a result of this mass rorting, the cost of Wellington housing for ministers has ballooned from $9782 a week in the first six months of last year to $11,484 – a huge 17% increase in just over a year.
We were promised that this new system would save us $200,000 a year while preventing Double Dipton-style rip offs. I warned that this new system would be ripped off and would cost us more. I haven’t been proved wrong; the ministers are clearly rorting us still and it will cost us over $60,000 more this year than last.
What we need is a PM with standards and the backbone to bring this gaggle of rorting ministers to account. They’ve been on notice and their behaviour has actually got worse. Now heads should roll.
Just don’t hold your breath waiting on John Key to act.
PS. how much was being claimed under Labour in 2008? $7923 a week.