Ken Livingstone has been grossly hypocritical over tax avoidance and is under investigation to see if he has broken the rules. He says journalists haven't asked his accountant any questions about it but he hasn't released his accountant's name.
But I think a story broken by the Mail on Sunday this morning into his expense claims when Mayor of London from 2000 to 2008 represents a far worse scandal.
The report says:
Ken Livingstone spent tens of thousands of pounds of public money as London Mayor on first class air travel, luxury hotels, fine wines and even a £260 pair of shoes.
Documents show that among a string of expenses claims he used a special Mayor’s credit card to pay for a £282 dinner with Ed Balls, then a Labour Minister, at a top London restaurant. Afterwards he dipped into public funds to pay for his £30 taxi home.
Mr Livingstone spent £135.94 on a desk lamp, £41.25 on a shirt, £42 for an ‘emergency passport’, and £23.87 on water at a Paris hotel overlooking the Eiffel Tower.
He bought fine wines from upmarket supplier Laithwaites, including four cases of Rioja Luis Canas Reserva 2001 (£475); two cases of Corneau Cyllene Pouilly Fumé 2005 (£199); three cases of Rovalley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (£299); and six half bottles of Foudre No 8 Cognac (£95). One of his Laithwaites wine sprees cost £2,884.
To ensure his drinks were chilled, he obtained a quotation for a £132 mini bar for his office.
The Balls dinner was at Shepherd's. Livingstone spent £466.35 on dinner for his Cuban translator during a trip to Cuba. The Greater London Authority documents also show that Mr Livingstone spent £130.73 on taxi trips to the dentist. His wife Emma Beal employed at the Council Taxpayer's expense as his £45,000-a-year ‘office manager’ took charge of most of the extravagant spending.
Livingstone's personal expense claims for his last four years as Mayor, on his corporate credit card cost the London Council Taxpayer £66,000. Under Livingstone the Council Tax precept rose 152%.
James Cleverly, the leader of the Conservative Group on the London Assembly, has written to the GLA monitoring officer, Ed Williams, asking for an investigation as to whether Livingstone breached the GLA’s code of conduct. It includes the requirements of "serving the public interest"; "accountability"; and "prudent use of public funds."
Boris Johnson travels economy, prefers his bike to taxis and doesn't use a corporate credit card. ll his expenses are published on the website.
Under Boris there has been exceptional transparency in City Hall. The problem for Livingstone is that it is also being applied retrospectively.