There was a shameful attempt recently by the Government to try and cover up the detail of MPs’ expenses, which thankfully never happened. Coincidentally, today the Scottish Parliament published MSPs’ expenses.
The Scottish Parliament website has a pretty awful search interface to get details of all expenses claimed. Despite being a bad form, it does allow you to select from the various categories for Expenditure Type. One of the categories is "Website Costs". Here’s the figures for which MSPs claimed how much for their website, in the 2007-2008 financial year.
Sometimes it’s easier to understand things visually. Here’s a graph of just the top twenty names from the list above:
The most obvious thing you’ll notice is that Charlie Gordon (Labour) is paying over £10,000 more than the next highest for his website. The site’s not too bad, about what you might expect from a typical MP or MSP’s site; a little bit of Flash used for navigation, reasonable design, plenty of content. But is it worth paying more than £1000 a month for? I’m not so sure… however, the plot thickens.
Using the Scottish Parliament site, it is possible to see exactly what each individual expense is made out to. As has been reported today in The Herald and the Evening Times, Charlie Gordon hasn’t just been paying over the odds for his website; he’s been paying it to his son’s company!
He’s since added a statement to his news page, claiming "My website costs for 2007/08 were around £1,700; not £12,900 as stated erroneously on the Scottish Parliament’s website!" Of course, it must be the Parliament that’s made a mistake. I look forward to finding out how they were mistaken to the tune of £11,000!
Interestingly, only 36 out of 129 MSPs claimed expenses under the Website Costs category. Either the other 93 don’t have websites, or have them paid for by their party, or are claiming the expenses in a different category, or aren’t claiming the expenses for the website.
I expect some other interesting figures might be found from the MSPs’ expenses. It would be great if they could setup a proper API to query that data, so the likes of They Work For You could use the information. The same applies to when the MPs’ expenses finally get published.