I read through the Conservative’s new Right to Know parliamentary expenses forms last week, and spotted that Tony Baldry, Conservative MP for Banbury, has an entry for: “Website hire” – at £1882.94 for the three months covered by the form so he’s paying £7531.76/year for http://www.tonybaldry.org.uk and he’s only renting it. This makes his website the most expensive of any Tory MP who reported their website costs as a separate item on this first batch of “Right to Know” forms, yet during the period covered by the expenses Mr Baldry the website was not being used very well:
- The blog was empty
- The gallery was empty
- No new news articles were published during the period covered by the “Right to Know” form.
- Due to the site’s design I initially, wrongly, thought there was no option enter an email address in the contact form.
I wrote to Mr Baldry pointing this out, and noting that some of his fellow MPs were getting a much better deal on very similar websites produced by the same company: “Politicos Design”, for example Francis Maude paid £460 for an essentially identical service as the one Mr Baldry paid £1882.94 for.
I have just been looking at your “Right to Know” form, and it appears you are paying well over the odds for your website, you should speak to Francis Maude who has a similar website from the same company and pays only a fraction you do.
Mr Baldry replied to my email saying:
Over the last couple of months, I have had a change of research assistants, hence why the website is not as good as it should be.
But thank you very much for drawing my attention to the costs, which I will take up with the company concerned.
That was quite a surprising reply, as I had expected Mr Baldry had made a mistake on his form, but it appears he really is paying over the odds.
Hopefully with more transparency and more MP’s expenses being published online, many eyes will be reviewing how they are spending our money and wasted money will be spotted and savings made. If an individual MP can be prompted to save a few thousand pounds, just imagine the savings that would be possible if more public spending was openly itemised allowing people to spot where our representatives weren’t getting a good deal as they spend our tax money on our behalf.