THE leader of the Tories on Newport council has called on a city-based Conservative AM to pay back the cost of his Cardiff hotel stays.
The Argus revealed last month that Mohammad Asghar, AM for South Wales East, had stayed in the capital for 20 nights between May 2012 and November 2013 at a cost of more than £1,200.
His office said that the bookings were within the rules, but Councillor David Fouweather, recently installed leader of the Newport council Conservative group, said the latter argument just doesn’t wash with the public.
Cllr Fouweather also works in Cardiff and sometimes finishes late – but says he wouldn’t expect his employer to provide him with a hotel.
He told the Argus: “In the spirit of goodwill, Oscar should pay back the money he claimed for overnight stays.
“It simply isn’t good enough any more to say it’s within the rules. That’s what they said in Parliament when they were claiming for duck-houses – that excuse doesn’t wash with the public. I work in Cardiff; sometimes I finish work at 10 o’clock at night. I have to be back in Cardiff for half past seven.
“I don’t expect my employer to provide me with a hotel, and nor would they.”
The Argus put Cllr Fouweather’s comments to Mr Asghar’s office, but a spokesman for him stuck by a previous statement released in June, saying they had nothing further to add.
They reiterated: “The hotel bookings were not made by Mohammad Asghar, but by members’ business services to allow him to perform his duties as an assembly member and were within the rules of the National Assembly.”
The Argus reported in June that the stays cost £1,280 in total.
In comparison, a 16-minute return train journey between Newport and Cardiff Central currently costs £5.40 while a day ticket on a bus from Cardiff Central to the Bay is £3.60.
Only one other Gwent AM – Islwyn’s Gwyn Price – appeared to have claimed through the Cardiff overnight stay allowance during the time concerned, and that was for two nights.
Many of the overnight stays coincided with Mr Asghar’s attendance at public accounts committee meetings, which start at 9am.