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Betsan Powys | 08:48 UK time, Wednesday, 13 August 2008

How many Assembly Members does it take to change a light bulb?

Just the one apparently (unless we pay for "product support" for that job too) but it does take us tax payers to pay for it. A new book case, rugs and bulbs cost Mike German £53.21 so that's how much it cost us. Ah I can hear Nick Bourne now. If only the Tories had got in in May 2007 he could have got £20.00 worth for free saving us all a few bob.

The irony is that people seem more affronted by Lynne Neagle's claim of £2.00 for a pyrex bowl and £3.00 for a roaster (on which there is unlikely to be any profit to repay the Assembly) than Lesley Griffiths' £2000 sofa or Nick Ramsay's two £1000 beds. The relatively new Conservative AM for Monmouth is either an extremely kind host with a two-bedroomed flat or he must have had rather a lot of explaining to do as to what happened to the first bed.

No, we don't yet have a John Lewis nor a John Lewis list but AMs who, by the rules, are allowed to keep a second home in Cardiff can claim mortgage interest payments, huge ones in some instances and reclaim the cost of everything from extension cords to hundred quid bins to acres of curtain poles and made-to-measure blinds - up to £12,500.

Eight AMs went to that very limit. Then again Andrew Davies AM who lives in Swansea made no claim at all. AM Mohammad Asghar lives closer to Cardiff certainly but claimed nothing, no subsistence allowance either, though some of his Plaid colleagues who made the headlines by refusing their pay-rises last year, unlike Mr Asghar who accepted his, are amongst the top eight claimants.

Ousted AMs like Laura Jones, Glyn Davies and Alun Pugh got to make claims after they'd lost their seats. But even large monthly mortgage interest payments reclaimed for as long as three months after the election, as you'll see from paragraph 32 here, are entirely within the rules.

I've no problem with £2 pyrex dishes. To be blunt I've no problem with a single AM who makes claims that are within the rules, as long as we get to know about them. Reckon you'll buy a £1000 surround-sound tv because you're worth it? Fine, just as long as your constituents agree.

It's the rules that deserve a second look. No, make that an intensive stare, especially at those rules on second homes.

So how many experts does it take to change a rulebook? The answer is simple: five.


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