MP defends expenses claims

By a County Press reporter

Monday, June 1, 2009

 

ISLAND MP Andrew Turner has defended expenses claims published in Tuesday's Daily Telegraph. They include £6,471 towards compensation after a former staff member won a case for unfair dismissal, £2,327 for solicitors' fees incurred by the case, cash for wrapping paper and radios for the office.

Mr Turner also admitted that an e-mail, sent in 2005 by his partner and parliamentary assistant Carole Dennett to the fees office saying she would use expenses cash to buy alcohol, was an inappropriate joke.

In 2004 Mr Turner lost an employment tribunal to former office manager Colin Hedgley and was ordered to pay £10,250 compensation, of which he claimed £6,471 from parliamentary allowances and paid the rest from personal funds.

Mr Turner said a £160 claim for life-coaching was for a member of staff who was suffering emotional problems related to a family illness which were affecting their work.

Another claim, of £240, was made for a member of staff to study GCSE maths.

"In accordance with good employment practice I believe in developing the skills and confidence of my employees. Two are currently studying for an NVQ3 in customer service," said Mr Turner.

A 2005 e-mail sent by Miss Dennett to the fees office stated: "Look forward to receiving the money - I shall be able to spend it on lots of booze so that the forthcoming election goes in an alcoholic blur."

Regarding the e-mail, Mr Turner said: "In the cold light of day this could be judged as inappropriate, but it was a private joke between two people in regular contact."

He admitted a £6 claim for wrapping paper bought on Christmas Eve, 2006 — shortly after he suffered a stroke — was a mistake. He said a further claim of £10 was made for a vase for the office after a well-wisher sent him flowers there.

Claims were made in successive years for radios, one for £199 and another for £139.

"I listen to the local and national news in my office. When the original radio broke down it was replaced. It was not realised until it was too late the original was still under guarantee," he said.

He said that all the expenses claimed for, except the £6 for wrapping paper, were directly related to his work as an MP.

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