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Conservative MP under investigation after mileage claim errors

Date: 06 February 2015   |   Author:

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) has revealed that Bob Blackman, a Conservative MP for Harrow East, may have to pay back £1000 after he submitted more than 700 "inaccurate" mileage claims.

The IPSA inquiry's provisional findings state: "The Compliance Officer has concluded that mileage claims submitted by Mr Blackman are, in almost every instance, not accurate and greater than the distance travelled. This is disputed by Mr Blackman."

Blackman has appealed against the findings from IPSA. The trips in dispute are for mileage claims on trips from his home to his office, for going to party political events and for canvassing sessions.

IPSA's report said it had been warning Blackman about his high mileage claims since 2011.

IPSA wrote to the MP as early as 14 October 2011 to point out that his mileage claims were "around twice the average for constituency mileage across the UK and some six times higher than other suburban London area constituencies where mileage is claimed".

In December 2012, in accordance with Section 9(2) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009, IPSA submitted a request for an investigation to the Compliance Officer alleging there were possible irregularities in the mileage claims submitted by the MP for travel within his constituency.

IPSA said the majority of Blackman's mileage claims appear to be rounded to the nearest five miles.

In the inquiry summary, IPSA said: "A comparison of [Blackman's] claims against the distances quoted by Google maps would suggest a pattern of over-claiming.

"On average, [Blackman's] claims are almost twice the distance shown on Google maps and in some cases, significantly more."

The examples provided by IPSA were as follows:

  • "Stanmore return", shown as five miles on Google maps but 15 miles claimed
  • Edgware return", shown as 11 miles on Google maps but 15 miles claimed
  • "Harrow Weald" shown as 2 miles on Google maps but 10 miles claimed.

A comparison with mileage claims submitted by MPs in constituencies with similar demographics has identified that Blackman's claims are in excess of three times the average and more than twice the mileage claimed by the second highest claimant.

Blackman stated to IPSA that the practice of using the odometer on his car to provide a distance for each journey travelled and thereafter recording that journey contemporaneously was "overly bureaucratic".

In response to the claims against him, a statement from Blackman said: "The Compliance Officer raised a concern that my mileage for holding street surgeries was not compliant based on other peoples' social media accounts.

"I provided my casework book which I personally gathered during such street surgeries, however, the Compliance Officer chose not to take it into account."

Blackman said there was a single incorrect claim where the amount of miles he entered was wrong, which was an isolated error.

He continued: "There are arbitrary mileage adjustments, with an accumulated total of £781.86. It states in the IPSA guidelines that the most cost effective route should be taken. The Compliance Officer believes that the most direct route was not taken. I supplied detailed maps for the routes that I routinely took which the Compliance Officer ignored.  Therefore, all claims for seven miles have been adjusted to six miles around the constituency which created a repayment.

"Subsequently, since my trip computer continues to record the exact same mileage as previously claimed, I am concerned that the Compliance Officer is not interpreting rules that exist but rules that he believes should exist. On that basis I do not accept the provisional findings. As such, I have invited him to publish a revision of the rules containing this or to apply the same level of scrutiny to all 650 MPs' mileage claims."