Speaker demands €24k home facelift despite expenses pledge

NEW Commons Speaker John Bercow has ordered a £20,000 (€23,600) refurbishment of his grace-and-favour residence, it was revealed yesterday.

When he was appointed, Bercow pledged to forgo the £24,000 (€28,300)-a-year second home allowance as part of moves to restore trust in the wake of the expenses scandal.

But, according to the Daily Telegraph, he has now ordered a series of alterations, redecoration and new furnishings for his rent-free home at the Palace of Westminster.

The improvements at Speaker’s House are set out in a confidential document seen by the newspaper.

They include £7,524.30 (€8,881.17) on a new sofa and window seat cushions for the drawing room.

One of the two studies is to become a playroom for Bercow’s three young children, with a £1,087 (€1,283) bill for redecorating it.

Some £3,600 (€4,249) has been spent on fitting locks to the windows and having workmen check that access ducts in the wall panelling are lockable or childproof.

A further £3,880 (€4,580) has been spent on planters to provide additional child safety on the terrace.

In the kitchen, a new large clock is being provided at a cost of £80 (€94), together with a noticeboard and blackboard, costing £86.73 (€102.37), a hob guard at £47.88 (€56.51) and an additional high-level pulley clothes airer.

Altogether, the work will cost £20,659.36 (€24,386.45), with another £20,000 reportedly earmarked to cover general maintenance.

Bercow’s predecessor Michael Martin was criticised for spending more than £700,000 (€826,227) on refurbishing the residence between 2000 and early 2008, plus a further £992,000 (€1,170,881) on the garden and improved security.

Buckingham MP Bercow was elected Speaker in June after Martin was forced from office over his poor handling of the expenses scandal.

A House of Commons spokeswoman said Bercow was “happy that this information is in the public domain, that the public know how this money has been spent”.

But asked if the Speaker felt the expenditure was justified, she said simply: “He is not commenting further at this time.”

Some 20 MPs and ministers have quit after the wave of embarrassing revelations, published in the Daily Telegraph, about expenses claims for everything from home loan repayments to duck islands and moat cleaning.

The job of Speaker involves chairing debates in the House of Commons, selecting who can speak and curbing the famously rowdy behaviour of MPs.

Mike Granatt, who was a spokesman for Bercow’s predecessor Michael Martin, told BBC Radio 5 Live the Speaker’s contract required him to live in the flat and it was “not unreasonable that the place should be made safe for his kids”.

He said the apartments consisted of two parts – the “grand state rooms” downstairs and the private apartment above which, he said, did need some redecoration.

“Some of the rooms I have been in ... certainly need refurbishment, I have seen large damp patches on one of the ceilings for sure.

“You have to remember this is a listed building, it’s a Grade I listed building – it’s a Royal Palace.

“Any work that is done inside it generally has to be overseen to the standards of English Heritage,” Granatt said.

More in this section

Cookie Policy Privacy Policy FAQ Help Contact Us Terms and Conditions

© Irish Examiner Ltd