I'm not generally given to denigrating our AMs, because I'm well aware of the massive workload they have and how much they punch above their weight in the chamber.
However, this report from the BBC earlier this week makes sickening reading. The hysteria over politicians' allowances travelled quickly from London to Wales, as the view that the Assembly is a 'waste of money' is unfortunately prevalent among members of the public across the principality. Indeed, it's a telling fact that before the 2007 elections, ITV carted out that smug moo Sian Lloyd and got her to present a series of programmes entitled What Has The Assembly Ever Done For Us? - this is how much the Assembly as an institution is resented. The Beeb put in a Freedom of Information request to get the detailed expenses breakdown for each AM, and I have to say I'm shocked at the results.
Conservative AMs: Total claimed: £93,730. Average claimed: £7,810
Labour AMs: Total claimed: £121,977. Average claim: £4,691
Lib Dems AMs: Total claimed: £55,321. Average claim: £9,220
Plaid Cymru AMs: Total claim: £129,936. Average claim: £8,662
Source: Assembly Commission figures for 2007-2008
Mike German was even named as one of the highest claimants, despite the fact he lives only seventeen miles from the Senedd. For heaven's sake, Mike! How many people in the region you represent do you suppose are commuting into Cardiff and claiming at most a measly mileage allowance and more often nothing at all from their employers for doing so? You aren't doing yourself or the rest of us campaigning for the party in Wales ANY favours electorally by feathering your nest this way. We are meant to be the champions of fairness, and this is patently unfair. We're meant to be the party most in favour of devolution, but this will deepen the negative feelings toward another expensive level of government. We, the party activists, are meant to be able to go out and tell people on the doorstep in 2011 (and before) that our AMs will be the ones sticking up best for the good taxpayers of Wales, and YOU ARE RIPPING THEM OFF!
I have to say I've agonised and bitten my nails before posting this, and waited for some kind of mitigation or response to come from our people for a few days, but it won't wait any longer. There hasn't even been anything from Peter Black since his swipe at the Tories when they published their (almost as ludicrous) expenses claims in full a week before the report came out - though he as ever is the most open of our AMs and had already published a defence of his use of the allowance three weeks ago. I'm angry, and I want answers - why are our AMs claiming so much more public money than those from other parties?
edited at 17:26pm to include information submitted in the comments