Rehman Chishti claims over £17,000 for second home in less than a year
We're so very tired
Thanks for reading Local Authority, and a hello to all of the new readers that have subscribed over the past week or so. Quite a few things to get to this week, but as we so often have to, let’s start with news of the beloved MP for Gillingham and Rainham…
Rehman Chishti claims £17,000 for second home in less than a year
We can’t stress how bored we are writing about Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti at this point. But here we are, once again.
Today, a classic old-school tale of MP expense claims.
Expenses are tricky to write about as there’s an immediate public perception that anything an MP claims is unreasonable given their salaries. We don’t subscribe to that viewpoint. The business of being an MP can be expensive, and the largest share of an MP’s expenses will usually be their staff, which is all fine.
One of the more controversial expenses is second home allowances and the associated claims that come with them. For many years, they haven’t been anything we’ve had to cover as Medway MPs live so close to London that they’d never need to claim for one.
Rehman Chishti has been the MP for Gillingham and Rainham since 2010. Since then, he has claimed rail travel as part of his expenses, which is perfectly acceptable within the rules, even if most of us can’t claim back our rail fares from our employers.
Parliament doesn’t run to a perfect schedule, so occasionally MPs will end up finishing late, sometimes after the last trains, so they are allowed to use hotels as and when required.
This is something Chishti did an awful lot of from 2012 onwards. From the 2012 to 2013 financial year, he claimed around £3,000 in hotel expenses, and after that, he clearly developed a taste for it.
Chishti’s hotel claims peaked in the 2018 to 2019 year, when he clocked up a staggering £11,443.95 in ad hoc hotel expenses. Who knows how high he could have taken the tally if the pandemic hadn’t gotten in the way.
Still, these claims suddenly stopped at the start of 2022.
Instead, Chishti is now claiming a second home on expenses. And it’s costing us a lot more than his previous hotel usage.
In the period January-October 2022 (as far as the current data goes up to), Chishti has claimed the following:
£14,062.50 for rent (charged at £4,687.50 per quarter, or £1562.50 per month)
£1,583.95 for council tax
£1,364.11 for gas bills
£141.78 for water bills
£121.78 for electricity bills
Giving us a grand total of £17,274.12 for Chishti’s second home in a period of less than ten months.
Which, and it could just be me, feels like an awful lot of money when his constituency is a 49-minute train journey away.
I’m no expert in London housing, so it’s hard to ascertain much from this data about the nature of this second home. The rent figure feels low for London, and there won’t be much rent charged with 50p on the end, so I’m assuming the property is shared. Doubling the rent cost would come out at £3,125pcm, which is depressingly in line with London rents for a two-bedroom flat.
The council tax charge for 2022 to 2023 is £1313.36, which is the exact charge for a band E property in the City of London. Assuming that’s where the second home is, it’s an odd choice as it’s still a little bit of a distance away from Parliament if the train ride home is so unbearably long.
It is worth nothing that neither of our two other Medway MPs, Tracey Crouch in Chatham and Aylesford or Kelly Tolhurst in Rochester and Strood, claim expenses for a second home.
We should reiterate here that from a legal standpoint, there is nothing to suggest Chishti has done anything wrong here. He’s claiming what an absurd system allows him to, and none of the claims seem suspicious in any way.
But being able to claim thousands of pounds for a second home when your actual first home is less than an hour away doesn’t seem to sit quite right.
This comes on the back of a long line of (to put it charitably) questionable situations for Chishti. A £11,000 trip funded by Saudi Arabia raised eyebrows, as did his claims to be an army reservist despite only doing it for a couple of hours, and his connection to anti-abortion campaigns. Then there was his £18,000 per year second job, the incident when he supported his donor’s planning application, and most baffling of all, that time he tried to become Prime Minister.
And all of that is just in the short period that we’ve been running this website.
It’s so much to keep up with, and we’re so very tired.
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NHS in numbers
999 calls: South East Coast Ambulance answered 72,859 calls in March. The average time for a call to be answered was 1 second. 10% of callers waited longer than 176 seconds for an answer.
Ambulance response times:
South East Coast Ambulance Trust has seen response time get worse for all categories during March. Things aren’t as bad as they were in the winter, but we’re seeing response times slip by small amounts on the most urgent calls and by larger figures on the less urgent ones.
Ambulance queues: 2% of patients arriving at Medway Hospital are waiting more than 30 minutes to be handed over to A&E. This is down from 4% last month, and much better than the national average of 27%.
A&E waits: 24% of A&E patients waited more than 4 hours to be seen during March at Medway Hospital. This is down from 27% in February, and better than the national average of 29%.
Last call for our local election debate
Our local election debate between the parties that could take control of Medway Council is happening this Wednesday (19 April) at MidKent College in Gillingham.
There are only a handful of free tickets left now, and you won’t be able to get in on the night if you haven’t booked in advance, so please do so if you intend to join us.
We’ll be asking the leaders a wide range of questions covering the issues that matter to Medway, with all questions coming from those submitted by those attending.
If you aren’t able to join us, we’re hoping to have a recording of the event made available afterwards, but at the very least there will be full coverage in next week’s edition of Local Authority.
Covid in numbers
Hospitalisations: There are currently 21 patients being treated for covid in Medway Hospital, with none of them on a ventilator. This is down 42% from last week.
Deaths: No death data was published this week. Not really sure why, but apparently it’ll be available again next week.
A new round of vaccinations is now underway, though this seems to be terribly underreported. If you are over 75 or extremely clinically vulnerable, you can now book another dose of vaccine on the NHS website.
Stroll on down to the record shop
Good news for the continuing march of gentrification over Rochester as word hits that an honest to god record shop will be opening on the High Street soon.
Not much is known about the shop yet, other than that it’s called Analogue Music and will be taking over the building that previously housed World of Difference, or ‘the bear shop’ at 70a.
It’s unknown what form this new record shop will take at this point, and the new outlet doesn’t have any kind of formal web presence yet. Rumours suggest it could be owned by the regular vinyl trader at Rochester’s periodic “City” Market. Fingers crossed it contains a decent selection of new releases though, and not just the usual secondhand staples of the same 60s to 80s records that dominate so many such stores.
🌹 Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting visited Medway this week. It’s another sign of how seriously Labour is taking its chances of performing well here in upcoming elections.
🩺 Meanwhile, striking junior doctors in Medway say they are at breaking point. This is an issue across the entire country and has led to strike action throughout this week.
🧒 More than 30 childcare providers closed in Kent and Medway between September and December 2022. Sounds bad?
🍔 Chuck and Blade Burgers will open a new larger eatery on Rochester High Street on April 28. It’ll be taking over the old Natwest building.
🗣️ The final Medway Council meeting before the election takes place this Thursday. This kind of meeting usually has a bit of an end-of-term vibe, and this one likely doubly so given the current political environment.
Paid supporters of Local Authority receive two extra editions of the newsletter every week. On Monday, Steven Keevil tackled a quintessential local election issue: potholes. On Wednesday, Ed published our monthly planning report that had details of a new Co-op for Medway, lots of new housing, and a GP surgery that local residents are angry about.
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Substack (the platform I use to publish this newsletter) has launched Notes, which is their attempt to build some kind of non-hellish social network into their platform. I’ve been using it for a little while now, and I’m rather enjoying it. It seems more relaxed and constructive than most social media at the moment, but obviously, that might change over time. If you’d like to join in, you can visit Notes on the web here, or get the Substack app for a seamless mobile experience, where you can also read this newsletter. Come and say hello.
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If you hear about any Medway news that might be of interest, let me know! Hit reply to message me directly, DM me on Twitter, or leave a comment below.
Music that soundtracked the creation of this newsletter: Straight to the Bottom: Back to the Bottom by Ankle Grease, Venus in Gemini by Dump Him, Your Pain is a Joke Next to Mines by The Just Joans, You Can Do Better by Johny Foreigner, Lean In To It by Allison Crutchfield, and Try to be Hopeful by The Spook School.