Cheshire MPs parking 'freebie' inquiry dropped

By Phil McCann
Cheshire Political Reporter, BBC News

image captionLabour MPs Chris Matheson and Justin Madders said the complaint by a Conservative councillor was "petty"

Two Cheshire MPs given free parking passes by their local council did not break parliamentary rules, a watchdog has found.

Labour MPs Chris Matheson and Justin Madders were accused of "taking a freebie" by a Conservative councillor.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found the passes did not need to be declared.

The MPs labelled the complaint "a waste of public funds" and "politically-motivated and petty".

In a letter to the commissioner, former leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council Mike Jones accused the MPs of "deliberately failing to properly declare" annual passes to a number of council-owned car parks.

Mr Jones told the BBC: "In my view they didn't declare it to avoid exposing the fact that they've taken a freebie from the residents of Cheshire West."

'Politically motivated and petty'

Chester MP Chris Matheson requested a council parking permit to be used for "official duties" after being elected in 2015.

The authority offered free permits to three other local MPs. The offer was accepted by Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders, but Conservative MPs Graham Evans and Antoinette Sandbach declined.

Mr Matheson told the commissioner: "I did not think to register the permit as it is issued also to all councillors in connection with duties as an elected member for the local area."

Mr Madders said the MPs' code of conduct "appeared to make it clear that I did not need to register the permit".

"If I am visiting on other business unrelated to the Council, I would pay for a space in the normal manner," he added.

The commissioner found that the £1,139 "maximum value" of the free parking permits was "considerably below the registration threshold" set out in the MPs' code of conduct.

Mr Matheson said: "I imagine many residents will be aghast that something as trivial as a parking permit could be the subject of a formal complaint."

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