Speaker orders grace-and-favour flat facelift

John Bercow has ordered £20,000 worth of refurbishments for his rent-free residence, it was revealed today.

New Commons Speaker John Bercow has ordered a £20,000 refurbishment of his grace-and-favour residence, it was revealed today.

When he was appointed, Mr Bercow pledged to forgo the £24,000-a-year second home allowance as part of moves to restore trust in the wake of the expenses scandal.

But, according to the Daily Telegraph, he has now ordered a series of alterations, redecoration and new furnishings for his rent-free home at the Palace of Westminster.

The improvements at Speaker's House are set out in a confidential document seen by the newspaper. They include £7,524.30 on a new sofa and window seat cushions for the drawing room.

One of the two studies is to become a playroom for Mr Bercow's three young children, with a £1,087 bill for redecorating it.

Some £3,600 has been spent on fitting locks to the windows and having workmen check that access ducts in the wall panelling are lockable or childproof

A further £3,880 has been spent on planters to provide additional child safety on the terrace.

In the kitchen, a new large clock is being provided at a cost of £80, together with a noticeboard and blackboard, costing £86.73, a hob guard at £47.88 and an additional high-level pulley clothes airer.

Altogether, the work will cost £20,659.36, with another £20,000 reportedly earmarked to cover general maintenance.

Mr Bercow's predecessor Michael Martin was criticised for spending more than £700,000 on refurbishing the residence between 2000 and early 2008, plus a further £992,000 on the garden and improved security.

Buckingham MP Mr Bercow was elected Speaker in June after Mr Martin was forced from office over his poor handling of the expenses scandal.

A House of Commons spokeswoman said Mr Bercow was "happy that this information is in the public domain, that the public know how this money has been spent".

But asked if the Speaker felt the expenditure was justified, she said simply: "He is not commenting further at this time."

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