John Bercow has a lot to smile about, it seems. Is he going to line his own pockets, just like his predecessor?
Mr. Martin famously claimed around £724,600 in public money to pay for the upkeep of the Speaker's residence, a grace-and-favour apartment upon which the occupant pays no rent, along with another £992,000 to improve the garden and security. £1,716,600 - not bad, eh? That could do a lot of good for an entire housing estate, never mind one apartment - it must be absolutely gorgeous in there after all that and now that Bercow's the speaker he gets to live there. Wonder what he thinks of it?
He thinks it's a "fantastic apartment but it's not altogether child friendly," apparently. Of course, none of us would ever wish to see any harm come to the Bercow offspring - but the £20,659.36 he's claiming just a month and a half since his appointment (22nd June 2009) to carry out further improvements seems a little excessive. Especially when you remember he gets paid the same amount as a Cabinet minister - £141,647 - and, as we've already pointed out, doesn't pay rent on the place. We can't help but wonder if just maybe he ought to pay for his own £6,764.30 sofa, £90.95 mattresses and sheets, £760 window seat cushions and £275 lampshades; none of which are strictly speaking essential in making a home child friendly - in fact, he'd be a lot better off getting the cheapest sofa possible, since he'll need to replace it in a year or so once the little darlings have drawn on it with felt-tip pens, smeared melted chocolate biscuits over it and done all of the other horrible things that kiddies do to furniture. Let's not forget the £80 clock, £86.73 noticeboard and £620 television aerial socket with Sky box he's claiming for either.
That would leave him with a cool £132,970.02 so he could probably have afford the £3600 he spent on window locks (this apartment must have a lot of windows), £47.88 on a hob guard, £3380 on planters to improve terrace safety and £1087 on changing a study into a playroom too. Like I say, nobody in their right mind wants to see any child come to harm; but most of don't get paid anything like that sort of money, but if we want to make our homes safer for our children we have to pay for it ourselves. And he'd still have £124,855.14 left over - quite a bit in excess of the average British annual income, which is around £24,908, only £1300.17 (about the same as a month's rent for many of those who have to pay for their accomodation) more than what Mr. Bercow is paid every two months.
According to a Commons spokesperson, Mr. Bercow says that he is "happy that this information is in the public domain, that the public know how this money has been spent." Will he be surprised if the public don't seem favourable?