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Politician who branded EU 'wasteful' was the only UK MEP to vote against expenses transparency

Luke James
Brussels correspondent
Steven Woolfe, the only British MEP to vote against moves to make European parliament expenses more transparent (Getty)

A politician who has blasted the EU for being “wasteful” with taxpayers’ money was the only British MEP to vote against new transparency measures for expenses, Yahoo UK can reveal.

A majority of MEPs this week backed the introduction of rules designed to improve the European parliament’s £35m-a-year expenses system.

The issue created a rare moment of consensus among British parties, even managing to unite the Greens with UKIP.

Only one British politician outright opposed the move to make MEPs more accountable – Steven Woolfe.

The former UKIP man, who now sits as an independent, sharply criticised the EU over expenses after it emerged European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker spent £22,600 on a private plane journey.

“No one in their right mind ever believed that there wouldn’t be an expenses scandal like this in the European Union because everyone knows that it’s one of the most wasteful institutions in the globe,” he told Talksport last August.

“It never has its accounts signed-off, its auditors are always pointing out that there’s fraud and waste across the EU.”

But Woolfe opposed the push to clean-up the European parliament’s controversial expenses system.

On top of their salaries, MEPs receive a ‘general expenditure allowance’ of £3,950 a month to cover the cost of running their constituency office.

Unlike politicians at Westminster, they are not required to provide receipts to prove how their expenses money is spent because the European parliament says it would be an “administrative burden”. They are also not required to return unused funds.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato has accused Woolfe of “hypocrisy” (European Parliament)

Many MEPs already voluntarily keep receipts and publishing records of their spending.

An amendment seeking to make those practices compulsory was made to a report on the EU budget voted on in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

It said MEPs should be required to keep receipts for all spending from their general expenditure allowance and return any unspent money.

Woolfe found himself on the losing side in the vote on the amendment, which was passed with the support of a majority of British MEPs.

Green MEP Molly Scott Cato told Yahoo UK his decision “smacked of hypocrisy” given that he had been “first to point the finger about the wastefulness and lack of accountability” of EU intuitions.

“This is public money and the public deserves to know exactly how it is spent,” added Scott-Cato, who is among the majority of British MEPs who publish their accounts online.

Woolfe also voted against an amendment which stipulated that the allowance “may not be used to cover personal expenses or to fund grants or donations of a political nature.”

The only other British MEP to join him was Conservative Sajjad Karim. UKIP MEPs abstained.

Richard Ashworth, a former Conservative who now sits with the centre-right EPP group, abstained on both amendments.

The renewed push to tighten the rules of the general expenditure allowance comes just a month after a group of journalists lost their legal battle to obtain details of MEP’s expenses claims.

The European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the European parliament, who say it would be an excessive “administrative burden” for MEPs to account for all their spending.

MORE: Court blocks bid to end secrecy over MEP expenses