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Editor's blog 3 June 2009: Expensesgate and the price of a Monitor

I missed the story in The Sunday Times about Monitor's executive chair Bill Moyes' expenses. There was much to miss.

The ST stated that "Dr William Moyes, chief executive of Monitor (no he isn't; he's the executive chair) ... claimed more than £35,000 in expenses in 2007-8 and 2008-9. His biggest charge was for chauffeur-driven cars, which cost £16,500. Moyes, whose basic salary is £215,000 a year, also spent £7,500 on meals  ... is favourite venue was the Cinnamon Club, an Indian restaurant in Westminster where he dined on 24 occasions, spending a total of £2,600".

I think this implied criticism is largely bollocks. Where to start?

OK, chauffeured cars versus public transport. Much as I love Martin Rathfelder of the Socialist Health Association, I thought his comment on Health Service Journal's editorial about the ST revelation was wide of the mark. And I don't often think that about Martin.

Moyes is apparently spending £8,250 a year on a chauffeured car. You could not buy a car and employ a person (even part-time) for that money without paying well below the minimum wage.

An annual travelcard for Zones 1-9 costs £2,724. I don't know Moyes' scehdule, but I am guessing that he probably has to go to meetings outside the Greater London area, because that is where most FTs are. With public transport cost being what they are, the remaining £5,526 is not exactly a lucrative fund. Let us assume Mr Moyes may go to three meetings outside the reach of his Travelcard every month, and give him a modest budget for pre-booked second-class travel of £120 for a return (as he may have to travel in peak time). That would come to £4,320 over the year if his meetings are all within walking distance of the train station and never over-run, so he catches his pre-booked return train.

That leaves £1,206. If he has to get taxis in London for urgent meetings, that sum would certainly not last the year.

And that is assuming that the chauffeured car only ever goes anywhere with Mr Moyes as the sole occupant. If he travels with colleagues, the economics shift rapidly.

On the subject of restaurants, I've been taken to the Cinnamon Club (though not by Moyes or Monitor). My main observation was that I found the food indifferent in quality and scandalously overpriced, but I find the same is true for many, if not most, London restaurants. His average spend with a guest (or maybe more than one guest) was £108.33. I can tell you that at that price, he is not ordering much wine.

You can disagree whether civil servants should offer hospitality. It's a legitimate disagreement. But the ST figures conspicuously fail to suggest that Moyes has been taking the piss.

Moyes is not elected. He's a civil servant who has come in from the private sector. Monitor appear to be a well-performing organisation which regulates FTs effectively. Yes, they missed MId-Staffs, but a) they weren't the quality regulator, and b) so did virtually everybody else.

It is intriguing to see a Rupert Murdoch-owned paper promoting the politics of salary envy over Moyes' £215,000 salary. We live in interesting times.