“I am relieved that this chapter has closed and that the police and Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed I did nothing wrong."Those were the words of Lord Hanningfield (remember him?) on learning that the City of London Police have confirmed he has no case to answer over expenses incurred during his leadership of Essex County Council.
This, of course has nothing to do with the nine weeks he spent in prison last year for Parliamentary expenses fraud, but it's an interesting conflation of 'nothing illegal' and 'nothing wrong', given figures released by the council from his taxpayer-funded council credit card:
The peer's card use from 2005 to 2010 lists thousands of transactions, including spending on flights, train journeys, meals and hotel stays which amount to £286,000 in total.He may have been cleared of fraud this time, but all that presumably means is that he did spent the money on what he declared and that it was legally authorised spending on council business - conveniently signed off by Hanningfield himself.
Fair enough, I suppose - but the items suggest he wasn't exactly roughing it when he travelled the world at public expense:
£42.94 spent on a single breakfast at the Little Chef in Wisley South, £5,266 on flights to India for a "business event" and £6,652 spent on flights to the Bahamas for a conference.Other expenses include £150-a-head dinners chez Gordon Ramsay, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein, a day at the races (£230), a £1,180 spa break in Hampshire and '£107 on drinks for four in Hot Springs, USA' - His Lordship was obviously feeling generous that night.
Legal, maybe, but not necessarily what you would call fair dealing with the hard-pressed taxpayers footing the bill; can this really be the same man who told a jury last year,“I do not lead an extravagant lifestyle. [...] I enjoy the occasional glass of wine but that’s about it"?
Meanwhile, his successor as Council Leader has taken advantage of the end of the investigation to publish five years' worth of corporate credit card charges in detail:
"We are committed to being open and transparent and I am pleased that we are now able to make this information available for the public to view."Which I think roughly translates as "Take that, scumbag!"