Wales politics

Shamed ex-AM Simon Thomas claimed thousands in expenses

Simon Thomas at court
Image caption Simon Thomas arriving at Aberystwyth Magistrates' Court in October last year

A former AM convicted of child sex offences claimed thousands of pounds in expenses after quitting the assembly.

Simon Thomas made 27 claims, five of which were processed after his conviction.

He resigned as an AM in July 2018, after his arrest, and went on to claim for "office removal costs" and an "end of tenancy fee" on his second home.

The Assembly Commission said the vast majority of the claims were paid directly to third parties.

On 3 October, Thomas admitted making more than 500 indecent photographs of children and more than 70 films.

He was given a 26-week suspended jail sentence.

Since resigning, Thomas had claims worth £3,606 paid. Most of that money was claimed for after his resignation.

Some of the expenses claims relate to costs incurred before he stood down as Plaid Cymru AM for Mid and West Wales.

But others appear to be for costs that arose as a result of him leaving the assembly.

Research by the BBC Wales Live programme has found:

  • He claimed £441 to cover "second home legal expenses", described as an "end of tenancy fee, August 2018" with CPS Homes
  • A £594 claim was made to cover "Office Removal Costs" with Carters Removals, the bill for which was dated 12 September
  • Thomas also had a claim processed for £735 on 24 July - the day before he quit as an AM - to cover rent on his second home for August 2018

Assembly rules, set by the independent remuneration board, state that a person who has ceased to be an AM "for whatever reason" is entitled to claim an allowance "in respect of the cost incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in completing any work that was in progress at the time that person ceased to be a member".

The rules also say: "The amount that can be claimed is to be governed by a written winding up plan agreed between the Members' Business Support team and the former member."

The former chair of the committee on standards in public life, Sir Alistair Graham, said: "I can see that there will be a strong public reaction to the expenses claims but as the rules provide no discretion it is difficult to challenge the payments.

"The rules should be reviewed to provide some discretion in extreme cases where an AM has been convicted of a criminal offence."

Responding on Twitter to the claims, Conservative AM Andrew RT Davies said: "Innocent people could've been left out of pocket due to these crimes and sudden exit from public life so it's right they're reimbursed.

"However, some of these claims should've been paid for by the individual concerned, rather than Welsh taxpayers picking up the tab."

Mark Drakeford, Wales' first minister, said if it emerges a former AM with a criminal conviction can claim expenses then the rules should be revisited.

"Because in those circumstances, I don't imagine that when the rule book was drawn up that that was the set of circumstances that people thought they were planning for," he said.

"They were planning for a situation in which somebody had become ill and had to stand down and had to wind their office and there were costs involved."

Thomas has been contacted for comment.

The Assembly Commission - the body which runs the legislature - said: "Simon Thomas was refunded £300.65 for travel expenses incurred during his time as an Assembly Member.

"Further costs of £3230.69 were paid directly to at least 10 different suppliers or contractors to cover the cost of settling outstanding bills and removing furniture as the office was being closed.

"All payments were in line with and required under the Determination of the independent Remuneration Board, which sets assembly member pay, expenses and allowances."

The independent remuneration board said it regularly reviews rules contained within the Determination to ensure allowances available to Assembly Members are "robust, transparent and ensures probity" for the expenditure of public funds.

Wales Live is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 GMT on Wednesday 20 February.

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