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MPs’ expenses: the best tools and resources on the web

June 21, 2009 One Comment

Interested in the MPs' expenses scandal? Here's a round up of the best resources and tools. Let me know if I've missed any.

Source data

The official redacted files

This is where Parliament's heavily redacted files are published. You pick an MP's name, and then you can download PDFs of receipts for each year for the three main claims: additional costs allowance, incidental expenses and communications allowance.

Accessing the redacted files

Accessing the redacted files

Cabinet expenses in full: the Telegraph's uncensored files

The Telegraph has published Cabinet MPs expenses 'in full'. While this does include key details censored from the official files, it's not quite everything.

telegraph-uncensored

Telegraph's less redacted versions

Sensitive information, such as precise addresses, phone numbers and bank account details have been removed.

Also, they've published the additional costs allowance receipts, but not the other ones - and it's the incidental expenses that are the biggest files. (Given it cost Parliament £1 million to redact the full set, I can see why they've done this - but it's a shame we can't see the incidental expenses receipts as they have some of the most interesting smaller claims in).

To use it, you choose a cabinet member and the year you want to see.

Crowd sourcing analysis

There are still untold stories in the receipts. For instance, I noticed that:

  • Peter Lilley claimed for a Sat Nav and several books on the problems of capitalism (even though he used to be Tory shadow chancellor!)
  • Anne Main claimed for a portable air conditioner.
  • Current Schools Minister Ed Balls has his children at a school near to his second home - even though that local council requires proof of main residence before admitting children.

Here are the two main ways you can join in the analysis of the data - essentially you look at one of the official PDFs, and then upload anything interesting you see.

Guardian: Investigate your MP's expenses

Guardian's crowd source analysis tool

Guardian's crowd source analysis tool

With the Guardian's crowd-sourced analysis tool, you can look at a page at random or choose one.

Then you mark whether it's a claim, proof, blank or other - this lets the Guardian tag the pages, allowing for better analysis.

You also mark whether it's interesting or not, and known about (EG a duckhouse) or not.

There's a rundown of what people have uncovered so far.

WhatTheyClaimed.com

What They Claimed has another crowdsourcing tool for revealing details of MPs' expenses.

To help, you can check the PDFs and add details to a Google Spreadsheet. You can see the data, and search by claim, category or MP.

whattheyclaimed

What They Claimed

You can read the background to the site here.

Analysing the data

MPs' expenses compared to debate participation

This table shows total expenses claimed in 2008 vs participation in the current parliamentary session. There's also a ratio showing the amount claimed in expenses divided by the percentage of debates attended.

Expenses vs participation

Expenses vs participation

MP' expenses analysis

Takes data from a number of sources and lets you analyse it in different ways, giving a rich view of individual MPs' and parties' claims.

Qlikview

Qlikview

They Work For You - total figures by MP

At They Work For You, you can find out all sorts about MPs - speeches, voting records, facts - and also a summary of their expenses (and where they rank from most to least claims) going back to 2001. The figures are totals rather than individual claims.

They Work For You's figures go back 8 years

They Work For You's figures go back 8 years

Expense claims vs safety of seat

Mark Reckons shows that the safer the seat, the more the MP generally claimed in expenses.

This is the last of his posts.

You can link through from that post to two earlier ones he did based on earlier, smaller data sets.

Visualising the data

Tables of data aren't everyone's cup of tea. Some people have taken the data and tried to show what it means visually.

Visaulising MPs expenses using scatter plots, charts and maps

Tony Hirst has published several maps and charts of the data allowing you to look for patterns or specific information, such as this interactive bar chart and this interactive map of MPs' travel expenses.

One of several travel expenses maps

One of several travel expenses maps

Heat map

ShootHill have done a colour-coded heatmap so you can see the geographical spread of expense claims.

Shoothill's Heatmap

Shoothill's Heatmap

UK map

A mash up of data from various data sources. Shows constituencies by party and the size of each 'pin' shows how much they claimed. Useful for quick whizz round the data.

martimedia

Bigger pins = higher expense claims

Read stories about MPs expenses

The three best places to find stories about MPs' expenses are:

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke started all this with her Freedom of Information request to see the details of expenses. You can read her blog: Your Right to Know.

There's also a good interview with Heather brooke in May from the Guardian.

Analysis of the way the story is unfolding

Freedom of Information Act explained

Some useful resources:

You might also like
  1. Google’s results for MPs’ expenses are rubbish
  2. MPs expenses: Telegraph now 1st in Google’s web results
  3. Diane Abbott’s expenses exposed by crowd publishing
  4. Telegraph dropping like a stone in google results?
  5. The (in)accuracy of Alexa: more evidence not to rely on it

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