NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon says he can see the funny side to a fundraising campaign that was set up to buy him a bicycle after he was banned from driving. (Pictures of Mr Benyon from 2004 and copyright of Newbury News ltd)
As reported by the Newbury Weekly News in December, Mr Benyon was disqualified for six months under the totting-up procedure after being caught using his mobile phone behind the wheel in London in April.
Mr Benyon, who has been actively campaigning for road safety since a number of fatal crashes on the A34, was heavily criticised and labelled a hypocrite by some following his conviction.
West Berkshire Green Party chairman Steve Masters couldn’t resist taking a swipe at his political rival by setting up the Just Giving page titled ‘MP Richard Benyon needs a bicycle’.
The plan is to buy Mr Benyon a cheap second-hand bike from eBay and donate the rest to the Eight Bells for Mental Health charity in Newbury.
So far more than £400 has been donated to the page, which has been shared more than 550 times on Facebook.
On the fundraising page, it says: “Living in rural West Berkshire he now faces a difficult task commuting into London without a car.
“He will also find he is increasingly unable to get around his constituency as readily as before after the recent cuts to rural bus services in West Berkshire imposed by the Conservative-led West Berkshire Council.
“To ensure our hard-working MP can continue to be an effective voice for all his constituents, the local Green Party have started a fundraising page to get Richard a bicycle to allow him to carry out his work both locally and in Parliament.”
Mr Masters, who is also the chairman of 8 Bells for Mental Health, said: “It is vital that Richard Benyon is able to carry on working and, like his constituents, he will clearly struggle after the cuts imposed in West Berkshire.
“To this end, an eco-friendly bicycle seems to offer the best solution to this unfortunate situation.”
He added: “Losing one’s licence when it is central to your working life can be devastating for working people.
“Therefore any surplus monies raised above the cost of a second-hand bike from eBay will go to a local mental health charity here in Newbury.
“This will ensure people like Richard have the support they need when dealing with what must be a very stressful time.”
Speaking to the NWN, Mr Benyon said: “I think it is very funny and very amusing.
“As the proposal is to give the majority of the money to Eight Bells, I have contributed £10 myself.”
Some constituents – and Mr Masters – have got in touch with both the NWN and Mr Benyon’s office to seek reassurances that the MP would not be claiming additional expenses for his journeys during his ban.
In response, Mr Benyon said: “I am sure no one really expected me to and of course I would not do that.
“I think most of the people saying that are either joking or doing it to be malicious.
“I claim less than I am entitled to, so the idea that I would suddenly start claiming for chauffeurs and taxis is risible and ridiculous.”
Mr Masters asked whether Mr Benyon would consider match-funding the money raised through his family’s Englefield Trust.
To which Mr Benyon replied: “My charitable giving is a private affair and I am not going to comment on that.
“I support a number of local charities and continue to do so, but those are my own personal affairs.”
When asked how he would be getting about during his six-month ban, Mr Benyon said: “A combination of public transport, my wife, friends, my new bicycle and my feet.”
Visit https://www.gofundme.com/mp-richard-benyon-needs-a-bicycle to make a donation.