Archive for the ‘Help Me Investigate.com’ Category

“How many envelopes does it take to win an election?…”-Placement, Days 3&4

With great powers comes great responsibility...well window cleaning is a hard job!

Today was much like the day before … and the day before that.

There was election expenses to make known to the world and I felt like I had a huge responsibility on my shoulders.

Paul was an elderly Ben Parker and I was the prepubescent Peter Parker, infected with the gall of a journalist and the cunning of Columbo.

‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

So armed with my Apple Mac and a spongy wrist cushion, I set about the task at hand, as I waded through over 100 PDFs of Councillor capital to pinpoint where exactly the funds were going and how effective this use was to us as voters.

After 2 days of tagging and forwarding receipts for anything from sound speakers to sellotape, I had concocted a list of my most interesting finds…

  1. The amount of times I must have tagged the word ‘leaflets‘ into my Hotmail subject window was untrue. It seems that on almost every receipt I looked over there was a charge for leaflets. Small, large, double-sided, full-colour, singing & dancing, they were all there. But this just makes me question ‘are they really getting their monies worth?’ For example, how many of us actually sit deep in thought with a flyer that comes through our letter box? In all truthfulness it’d be lucky if it got a quick glance before being chucked straight into the paper box. Recycle, recycle.
  2. On a few receipts, I noticed details of ‘equipment hire’…from themselves! I can’t understand how the Liberal Democrats could charge themselves for equipment lease and then reimburse themselves?! The mind boggles…
  3. I was surprised to find on a number of occasions that some of the candidates had been ‘fined‘ for varying reasons, and this had also been taken out of funds. One example of this was a fine for failing to returned leased goods from a sound company. Apparently only 3 out of 4 megaphones had been returned! Why didn’t they just return them all?!
  4. On a few of the expenditure breakdowns, there was a whole host of food receipts for staff. Mostly from ‘Papa John’s‘. He may be pleased to know that Birmingham Council is keeping him afloat! However, some of the things claimed for just seem a tad excessive considering the amount of money these people are on! i.e. a claim for £3.95 from Somerfield. Now surely times aren’t that hard?!
  5. Now the expense that really wound me up was the ridiculous amount of money spent on ENVELOPES! Just on 6 sets of receipts I totted up a gigantic bill of £3,269.20!! ‘Blue envelopes’, ‘white envelopes’, ‘TNT envelopes’, & even ‘reinforced envelopes’ were purchased in their tens of thousands. On one receipt in particular one candidate forked out on 90,000 ‘windowed envelopes’ costing a whopping £1,054! And the best about it is over 20,000+ weren’t even used! I guess the ‘window’ gave the game away a little bit. Tut tut.

To view images of Birmingham’s Hall Green expenses, click here.

To view images of Birmingham’s Edgbaston expenses, click here.

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Crack-down on Councillors as we examine their elections expenses-Placement, Day 2

Today was a bit of a mish-mash of occurences…

Having been unable to squirm out of my schedule of ‘slave labour‘ i.e. work, I spent 5 hours of the beginning of my day operating a till and tending to the general groans of complaint issuing from the front of the Customer Service desk.

When I eventually arrived home, I checked my inbox, which was full to the brim with PDFs from Paul.

In a ‘your mission, if you chose to accept it‘ manner, the pile of PDFs were followed by another email detailing the …. well, ‘details’ of my ‘mission’…

Each of the PDFs he’d emailed me were a scanned document containing the ‘election expenses’ of a certain Hall Green candidate. The documents covered receipts for anything from ‘rubbers’ to ‘room service’ and  I was to tag each of the documents with the company names involved and the ‘document type’. I then forwarded them to the posterous site documenting these expenses, which is available to the general public so that they can see for themselves where the money is going and what it’s being spent on, down to something a trivial as pens and pencils.

I, as well as the rest of the nation had witnessed the huge amount of press coverage when the government’s expenditure was leaked into the public domain, but it still came as a shock to see the huge amount of money that goes into candidate campaigns.

It was most certainly an eye-opener!