Op-Ed: Tory MP Mark Simmonds hit headlines this week as it was revealed he used £10,000 of public money to pay for billboard and radio ads to promote himself.
Simmonds was appointed UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Commonwealth Office on September 5, 2012 but in August 2014 he announced that he would be stepping down from office at the 2015 General Election. He cited family life and how difficult it was for a married father of three to live on an annual parliamentary salary of £67,000. He claimed new rules aimed at curtailing expense fiddles were 'intolerable'.
Political pundits wondered if there was more to his resignation announcement and It did not take long for headlines reporting Simmonds financial track record as an MP to make waves.
In announcing his resignation he claimed he was struggling to survive on his parliamentary income but in truth 'he is the owner of a million-pound mansion, bought using profits from the sale of his taxpayer-funded home' reported the Mail Online; a seven-bedroom grade-II listed house with a heated swimming pool.
Claims from Simmonds that as a father of three it was a struggle to pay for his Westminster parliamentary flat fell to earth quickly spectacularly.
The knives were out and the Mail Online continued the assault saying Simmonds had claimed "£1.7million in expenses since becoming a Tory MP in 2001. He also made more than £500,000 by selling a house on which the taxpayer paid the mortgage interest. Six months after becoming an MP, he bought a five-bedroom house in Putney, south-west London, for £650,000. From 2001 to 2009, he claimed £2,000 a month for the mortgage interest."
Shocking news especially from an MP who is part of a government preaching austerity to the country.
But with that background should we be surprised that Simmonds was sponsoring a hospital radio station and claiming it back on expenses? Along with news that Simmonds claims back from the taxpayer any money for advertising billboards he was back in the news this week again for all the wrong reasons.
Campaign group 38 Degrees has launched a petition demanding that Simmonds pays back the £10,000 claimed back in this way and apologises.
His earlier abuses of expenses may have been within the rules at the time but they do not show an ethical man.
The petition says "Mark Simmonds obviously likes good publicity, after all he's used our money to promote himself - so the last thing he’ll want is a big public petition, signed by thousands of people. Every signature helps to embarrass him into paying us back. If you agree that Mark Simmonds MP should pay the £10,000 back, please sign the petition.