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Ukip leader dismisses allowances allegations as 'political smear'
4:52pm Tuesday 15th April 2014 in News
Ukip leader Nigel Farage has defended his use of MEPs' allowances and claimed he is the victim of a "political smear" following allegations about the money used to fund his constituency office.
According to Ukip's own figures Mr Farage spent almost £70,000 of the general expenditure allowance (GEA) on office costs since July 2009, but The Times reported the premises were provided rent free to the party leader.
Mr Farage said he was given the GEA "to spend as he sees fit" and added: "It is taxpayers' cash, which I spend to promote the campaign of getting Britain out of the European Union."
According to transparency reports produced by Ukip, Mr Farage spent £69,500 on office costs between July 2009 and December 2013.
Ukip has fiercely disputed The Times' claim that the office in Lyminster, West Sussex cost closer to £3,000 a year to run.
Mr Farage told Sky News that he was given a £3,580 monthly allowance, unlike the Westminster system where MPs had to claim expenses.
He said: "They are not expenses. We don't actually claim for anything. I have not claimed for an office, I have not claimed this figure of £15,000 (a year).
"The Times, who are the pro-establishment newspaper, have deliberately tried to conflate the expenses row in Westminster - where people have been using taxpayers' money to buy houses and make large capital gains - with the way the system in the EU works.
"I'm not defending this system, I want it to end. But I get given, as does every other British MEP, £3,580 every month to spend in the UK and in my constituency as I see fit.
"There are a list of allowable expenses - we can spend it on newspapers, we can spend it on books, we can spend it on subscriptions on periodicals, on hotel bills, on restaurant meals, on taxis on travelling or, if we want to, on an office as well."
He added: "We do not have to provide any receipts or any explanation for how that money is spent."
Asked what the money was spent on, when the office is rent-free, Mr Farage said: "The electricity bill is more than £3,000 a year, we have burglar alarms, we have insurance, we have a massive postbag and a mail bill that is growing by the week as the level of interest and support for our party and our campaign and our cause grows."
Pressed by Sky News' Dermot Murnaghan on why the electricity bill was so high the Ukip leader said it was for "running machines, running banks of computers, running photocopiers".
He said the lack of scrutiny of MEPs' expenditure was "how the European Union works, it's one of the reasons that I don't want us to be a member of it".
Mr Farage added: "I'm setting the example: I want to be sacked, I want every British MEP to be sacked, I want these allowances to end totally and I want us to have a referendum to get us out of the European Union.
"I have spent 15 years, I have travelled more miles, I have spoken at more meetings, I have worked harder across the UK than any other British MEP and without those allowances I couldn't have done the job."
He said the allegations made against him in The Times were a "political smear of the worst kind".
On BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mr Farage said he would consider allowing his use of the allowances to be independently scrutinised.
"If that would solve the argument, of course I would," he said.
"The real point, of course, here is that Ukip ultimately don't want any of these allowances, we don't want British MEPs costing the taxpayer all this money."
In a letter reprinted on Ukip's website, Mr Farage's former office manager - who was quoted in The Times - disputed the £3,000 annual running cost claim.
David Samuel-Camps said he had reduced monthly running costs from £2,000 to £700 - or £8,400 a year.
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