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Taxpayer coughs for AOL Connie's flat

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Readers hungry for an IT angle to the unfolding MPs' expenses scandal will be cheered by today's news that taxpayers have been paying thousands of pounds to tart up a flat occupied by AOL Connie, the star turn in a famed series of dotcom-era TV ads punting dial-up internet access.

Connie was played by model/actress Rachel Willis, daughter to senior Liberal Democrat Phil Willis, the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough.

Prissy know-all/viviacious and futuristic

Today The Daily Telegraph reports that since 2004/05 Phil Willis has claimed £12,653 in mortgage interest payments on a South London property that is jointly owned, and now solely occupied, by his daughter. He also submitted a £1,275 rewiring bill, claimed £2,150 for decoration and £1,036 for drain cleaning.

The flat was initially designated as Willis' second home, and occupied by his daughter "intermittently". In 2007 however he bought the neighbouring basement flat, which he then designated as his second home, leaving AOL Connie as sole occupier of the renovated first flat.

Willis then claimed £1,700 to decorate his new flat and £1,188 for a new bathroom. AOL Connie has joint ownership of the second flat, too. Which is nice.

As The Telegraph notes: "This means public money has been spent on a flat now inhabited by the MP's daughter, and on a property in which she has a joint interest. Rules state that members cannot claim for costs that benefit anyone other than themselves."

In response to the story, Willis said he would pay back any capital gains if the flats are sold. "At no time have I knowingly made claims that attempted to abuse the Additional Costs Allowance," he added.

According to AOL Connie was "a futuristic, vivacious character". Judges bestowing the ad trade mag Campaign's Turkey of the Year Award in 2001 called her "a prissy know-all".

Still, it's good to know that after she was given the boot in 2003 the rest of us were able to give Connie a comfortable retirement, no? ®

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