MPs profit from public purse renovations

I co-wrote this Sunday Times article about former MP Margaret Moran, who can expect to make a tidy profit on two homes which were renovated with public money. Vera Baird, Labour’s former solicitor general, has also put her newly-renovated house up for sale, but declined to tell us if she would refund the taxpaper its share.

Full text is on the Sunday Times website here, or read on.

Expenses shame MP cashes in

Disgraced ex-MP Margaret Moran could make £500,000 from the sale of her two former parliamentary homes which were renovated with taxpayer money

Cal Flyn and Maurice Chittenden
The Sunday Times, 14 November 2010
The shamed former MP Margaret Moran, whose expenses claims are being investigated by the police, stands to collect a £500,000 nest egg from two former parliamentary homes which were renovated at taxpayers’ expense.

Moran, 55, who was forced to stand down after claiming £22,500 to treat dry rot at a seaside house 100 miles from her constituency, has just sold her Luton house for a profit of more than £185,000. She is understood to be keen to sell her Westminster flat, too, which could net a profit of more than £300,000.

All her properties were improved at taxpayers’ expense after Moran, then MP for Luton South, repeatedly “flipped” from one to another to take advantage of generous Commons allowances.

Moran bought her semi-detached home in Luton for £72,995 in 1995 and during her spell as an MP she did it up to look like a show home. She claimed £14,085 for a new boiler, another £2,350 for the garden; £1,823 for the refurbishment of a bathroom and £1,725 to do up a bedroom. In all, she claimed £73,000 more than the Luton North MP living in the same street.

The renovated house has been sold for “not far short” of its asking price of £259,950 to a family who will move in at Christmas. They will have to do without a bay tree which was bought with money from the public purse and used to stand next to the front door, until it was stolen by pranksters who chopped it in half in Trafalgar Square in protest at Moran’s extravagance.

Detectives are still investigating the expenses claims on the house after allegations that the receipt for work to replace the boiler bears a Vat number that may not have been valid. The man living at the address on the invoice has denied fitting a boiler for Moran.

She also claimed £5,735 for a kitchen and £2,678 for carpets at the two-bedroom Westminster flat which she bought in 1999 for £149,000. A flat in the same block sold last year for £520,000.

There was nobody at the flat this weekend, but a porter said that Lord Boyd, the former advocate-general of Scotland, is now listed as staying there. Boyd, 57, could not be contacted to comment.

In 2008 Moran designated as her second home a house in Southampton originally owned solely by her then fiancé and future husband Michael Booker.

She submitted the invoice for the “essential treatment” of dry rot and showed no remorse when challenged about using a house so far from her constituency. She instead claimed that being with her “other half” at weekends meant she could work harder for her constituents in Luton South.

Moran declined to speak to The Sunday Times last weekend and did not return calls this weekend. She is one of 10 MPs involved in the expenses scandal who have now sold their second homes for a total profit of £1m.

Hoping to join them is Vera Baird, Labour’s former solicitor general and the former MP for Redcar, who tried to get taxpayers to foot the bill for Christmas decorations at her four-bedroom detached home. She claimed £76,037 in total for the Redcar house she bought for £113,000 in 2001; it is now on sale for £295,000.

Last summer she indicated that she might make a gesture to acknowledge how much the house had been funded from the public purse and would behave “accordingly and morally and properly” when it was sold.

This weekend she sounded less altruistic and said: “Did I say that? It’s not sold. The market is very flat. I’m really not interested in talking to you about it.”

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