16 December 2007

Wendywatch: Taxpayers funding a glorified version of MS Access

Today's Sunday Times reports on a new row that may or may not engulf Wendy Alexander.

It transpires that she is one of 13 Labour MSPs (as well as 260 Labour MPs and 16 Labour Welsh Assembly Members) who are using parliamentary allowances to pay Computing for Labour - owned by a certain Labour Party - for IT services that Holyrood offers for free.

CfL helps Labour campaign during elections, but in this case, provide what is essentially a database to follow constituency casework. This would be fine, except it's basically MS Access. I know this because I used to be in Labour (but I grew out of it), used to volunteer in an MP's office, and used CfL.

So software that MSPs could probably get from Holyrood anyway, they're using Parliamentary allowances - taxpayers' money - to get the Labour Party to do it for them. Your tax money is therefore assisting Labour's campaign strategy. As it is basically just a database - and if the MSPs need help with that, they should hire an assistant who can use MS Office - the argument that it is an invaluable support tool to help them deal with constituents' problems is just a red herring. In any case, are these 13 MSPs the only effective constituency caseworkers?

Wendy Alexander - and the others - have broken no rules. But there is no need for this particular software as it's already available, and there is no need to pay CfL for it - other than to channel extra cash to Labour. There is certainly no need to use Parliamentary allowances for it. Perhaps, while Nicol Stephen is in the mood to propose inquiries by the Corporate Body, this is something else they could look at?

PS Thanks to SLG at Our Scotland for flagging up the story.

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