AM criticised over expenses questions
KEITH Davies has come under fire for refusing to speak directly to the Llanelli Star over the amount of public money he spent on staying at luxury hotels.
The town's Assembly member would not speak to us after racking up a £4,846 bill on rooms at five-star hotels — almost double that of any other AM.
Instead, a comment was issued through a Labour spokesman, who sprang to Mr Davies's defence, saying his hotel claims were less costly than those made by other AMs who rent flats.
But when the Star pressed for a comment directly from the AM, we were threatened with a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission.
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Llanelli councillor John Jenkins claimed Mr Davies was not acting responsibly.
He added: "When you are paid handsomely from the public purse like Keith Davies, you have a responsibility to account for your actions.
"By not answering legitimate questions over his expenses and overnight stays in five-star Cardiff hotels himself, in my view, Keith is not fulfilling his responsibilities.
"If Keith has nothing to hide, nor anything to be ashamed of, then he himself should speak for himself and not hide behind his bag-carrier."
Llanelli's former AM, Helen Mary Jones, said: "I always found having an open working relationship with the local press very important when I was an AM.
"I faced some tough questions at times, as it right and proper, but it was always helpful to me, and hopefully to my constituents, for me to communicate directly with them through the press."
Keith Davies made 32 claims for stays in hotels in Cardiff covering 60 nights since he was elected last year — at a cost of £2,200 more than the second highest claiming AM.
Mr Davies's total represents 15 per cent of all hotel claims made by AMs since last May.
Robert Oxley, campaigns manager for the Taxpayers' Alliance, described it as "unbelievable" that one AM could mount up such a bill.
"Keith Davies should explain why his time at hotels is costing taxpayers much more than it is for other members," he said.
"Politicians shouldn't forget who is paying their expenses when they need overnight accommodation, and should do more to control the cost."
It is the second hotel controversy for the AM this year. In May, Mr Davies apologised to constituents following a drunken incident at the St David's Hotel in Cardiff.
A spokesman for Mr Davies said: "The total cost of stays away from home claimed by Labour's three AMs in the Mid and West Wales region was £16,598 compared to £19,713 by two Conservatives and £38,791 by the four Plaid AMs.
"Keith Davies's claims for staying away from home were much lower than most other AMs, as during that time period he did not have permanent accommodation away from Llanelli."
Plaid Mid and West Wales AM Simon Thomas claimed £1,363 on 10 hotel stays over the year, as well as £7,635 for a second home in Cardiff. His spokesman said hotel claims were made before Mr Thomas found a second home.
And Labour said Mid and West Wales AM Joyce Watson's £10,126 claim for a second home, and £545 for the eight occasions she needed a hotel room, could be explained as she lived in Pembrokeshire and needed a flat to fulfil her duties as an AM and a member of three committees.
Both spokesmen added that the claims were made in line with rules set by an independent board.
Chairman of the town's Market and Shopping Precincts Tenants Association Barrie Lewis said he felt Mr Davies was "bringing Llanelli into disrepute" by not speaking on the issue. He added: "Why doesn't our AM speak directly to the Llanelli Star which represents the voting and listening public of Llanelli?"