Plaid Cymru AM Bethan Jenkins is under fire after claiming expenses for hotel accommodation on the night she attended the Rihanna concert in Cardiff.
We have confirmed that Ms Jenkins, a regional AM for South Wales West, made a claim under the National Assembly’s pay and allowances scheme for a hotel room in the Welsh capital on the night of Monday June 10.
The new row comes just months after Ms Jenkins was banned from driving after being caught doing so while more than twice the legal drink-drive limit. For a period she was suspended from the Plaid group and was readmitted after giving guarantees about her future conduct.
After learning about the hotel claim, senior figures in Plaid Cymru have made it known to the Western Mail that they are exasperated by Ms Jenkins’ behaviour.
Under the Assembly scheme, an AM like Ms Jenkins who lives near Neath can be reimbursed up to £95 a night “for additional expense which they necessarily incur in staying overnight away from their main homes in connection with the performance of their role as AMs”. On occasions when they are staying away from home, AMs can also claim up to £20 for dinner.
The only formal meeting that took place in the Senedd on the morning of Tuesday June 11 was of the Public Accounts Committee. Ms Jenkins is not a member.
Since receiving a tip-off last week suggesting Ms Jenkins made an expenses claim for the night pop star Rihanna performed at the Millennium Stadium as part of her Diamonds World Tour in front of more than 60,000 fans, we have been seeking to establish the facts.
Plaid Cymru has confirmed that Ms Jenkins made such a claim, but says she has since repaid the cost of her night’s stay,
Initially, Ms Jenkins would only say: “There will be no cost to the public purse for my stays on the nights in question.”
We then sent her an email which said: “[We] understand that you initially indicated to the Assembly Commission that you were claiming expenses for an overnight stay on the night of the Rihanna concert, but that the situation subsequently changed.
“[We’d] be grateful if you could answer the following questions:
“Which Assembly meeting the morning after the Rihanna concert did you intend to attend?
“Why did you not attend it?
“When did you notify the Assembly Commission that you would not be claiming expenses after all?”
She responded: “On the morning of Tuesday June 11 I was at the Assembly as usual, performing my duties as an AM. Details of all AMs’ expenses are published on the National Assembly for Wales website and are overseen by the independent Remuneration Board. As I have said previously there will be no cost to the public at all.”
The Assembly Commission said it could not comment on the case, but sent us a link to its pay and allowances scheme. The scheme indicates that AMs living in the “intermediate area”, which includes Neath, can claim up to £3,420 for overnight stays in Cardiff in each year in connection with the performance of their role as AMs.
We now understand that accommodation for AMs is booked and paid for in advance by staff of the members’ support unit at the Assembly, and that Ms Jenkins therefore reimbursed the cost of her accommodation later.
A Plaid Cymru spokeswoman said: “There are specific guidelines which AMs are expected to adhere to with regards to allowances and expenses. Plaid Cymru expects all its members to operate within these rules.”
An Assembly insider said: “You’d think that following her drink-drive conviction and subsequent censure by the Assembly, she would be trying to keep her head down.
“Her previous actions have already greatly harmed not only Plaid Cymru but the reputation of the Assembly itself. In my view this is yet another issue for the Standards Committee and it looks as if time is fast running out on her tenure as an AM.”
Last December Ms Jenkins was banned from driving for 20 months, fined £750 with £85 costs and ordered to pay a £75 victim surcharge after pleading guilty to driving while more than twice the legal drink drive limit.
Barefoot and wearing pyjamas, she was stopped by police in the early hours of the morning on Cowbridge Road West, Cardiff in October, after she was seen driving erratically.
The court heard she had been found wearing nightclothes by officers when they stopped her car as she drove to her parents’ house in Merthyr Tydfil after a party in the Welsh capital.
In March, fellow AMs endorsed a recommendation to formally reprimand Ms Jenkins, after a standards committee report found she had brought the institution into disrepute.
She said after she was arrested that she was “deeply sorry” and was dealing with depression. Subsequently she broke down while apologising again during an Assembly plenary session.
A year ago Ms Jenkins was criticised after failing to attend two sessions of an international conference in Ireland at which she was meant to be representing Wales having travelled there at taxpayers’ expense.
She attended social events linked to the trip – but failed to attend a short early morning committee meeting and a full plenary session of the 44th British-Irish Parliamentary Association Plenary Conference in Dublin.