Britain’s anti-eu leader denies expenses allegations

Eurosceptic UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage said Tuesday he was considering legal action after a British newspaper reported that he faces an investigation over his EU expenses.

Farage told the BBC that the «outrageous» allegations published by Rupert Murdoch’s The Times were politically motivated, ahead of European Parliament elections on May 22.

The Times reported that a former UKIP official had made a complaint to the European Union’s anti fraud office OLAF over allowances that Farage receives for his constituency office in Britain.

The newspaper said Farage gets 15,500 ($25,900, 18,700 euros) a year to run the office in a converted grain store, citing transparency reports on the party’s website, but reported that it is provided rent free by local supporters, while a former office manager said the premises only cost 3,000 a year to run.

Farage said the story was «simply wrong.»

«I have been accused on the front page of The Times of siphoning off EU money into the Cayman Islands I am taking legal advice, I think this is completely and utterly outrageous,» Farage told BBC radio.

The UKIP leader who has built his beer and cigarettes image on being a man of the people and not part of the elite in London and Brussels added that it was «yet another politically motivated attack from what is the establishment newspaper».

«We do not claim expenses for running offices or any other activity that takes place within our member state the United Kingdom. We get an allowance, a fixed rate allowance, and we can spend it how we see fit,» he said.

Farage said the allowance was actually 3,580 a month «and that is given to every MEP (member of the European Parliament) and we can spend it how we want to. We don’t have to provide receipts for it or anything like that.»

The EU gave recommendations for what the money could be spent on, ranging from office expenses, phone bills and hotels and restaurants, he added.

OLAF said it was aware of the press reports about Farage. A spokesman refused to comment on the reports, but said its general practice was to assess any complaint to see if there was sufficient evidence to launch an investigation.

Opinion polls have shown growing support for UKIP, with one survey published at the weekend putting the party on 20 percent while Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives hit 29 percent, their lowest this year.

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU and then hold an in out referendum in 2017, provided that he is returned to office in Britain’s next general election in May 2015.

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Unions slam imperial tobacco closure as a ‘cynical ploy’ to retain company profits

Rhys McCarthy, national officer at Unite, said «The company has callously decided to dump its UK workers and the only people who will be benefiting from this move are the shareholders and executive directors who will trouser even more money from this cost cutting exercise once the dust has settled.

«It’s another nail in the coffin for UK manufacturing and a loss of revenue for the exchequer.»

Local MPs have also been shocked by the proposals.

Lilian Greenwood, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said she was already in conversations with Imperial Tobacco to see if the company can be persuaded to change its mind.

«Nottingham is a resilient city and I’m confident we can recover from this blow,» she said. «I will be doing everything I can, together with the city council and other partners, to ensure that those affected receive all the help and support they need.»

Business leaders were concerned about the impact on Nottingham’s economy.

George Cowcher, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce for Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire, said the move was «a big blow.»

He added «It’s another traditional local industry along with coal mining and textiles which has been virtually lost or in decline in recent years and it will be extremely sad to see it go.

«Although the shutdown will be phased over the next two years, focus must be placed on trying to get as many of the affected employees as possible into alternative employment.»

And finding work is high on many of the employee’s agendas.

Jamie Butler, 41, a worker at the factory, said «I’ve been here 23 years and my wife works here too. We’ve got four kids. It’s going to have a massive effect on our family and our life.»

Chris Ward, 44, another factory worker said «I just feel very demoralised and upset. It is a bad day for Nottingham there is a lot of history here.»

Derek Bergin, 56, from West Bridgford, worked at Imperial Tobacco for 33 years on the production floor but retired last November.

He said «We are shocked. There has been a lot of streamlining in the past few years but we still never thought that Nottingham would close completely.

«A lot of younger people had started working there and hoped to work there for a long time.

«Those are the ones we are feeling sorry for as usually when you get a job there, you stay there. Those younger people are going to be very disappointed.»

But Dr Alexander Trautrims, lecturer in supply chain management at Nottingham University Business School, said the tobacco market was shifting to the East and the company had to follow its customers.

«Smoking is becoming less popular in the developed world but it is increasing in places like the Far East and Middle East,» he said. «As a company selling a consumer product, this is where you want to be.»

«Smoking is shrinking further and further so there needs to be consolidation in European markets as there won’t be a lot of growth.

«Moving manufacturing to Eastern Europe means it is going to be easy enough to put the product on to lorries and send them to the UK. So the decision is logistically sound.»

Yet, even if the logistics make sense, it hasn’t stopped the local sense of loss, with another Nottingham name biting the dust.

Mr Bergin concluded «It really is a shame. It was a great company for local people and a big employer over the years, hiring thousands of people.

«But the amount of production just kept declining and there is nothing you can do about that. It is just very sad.»