July 4 2013

 

Perfect timing

Since Cllr Brian Hall lost his Cabinet seat, and the ability to claim unlimited travelling expenses while on "portfolio duties" (see Traveller's tales), the annual inspection of the county council's accounts has rather lost its lustre.
I did pop in on Tuesday to have a look, but the the sense of excited anticipation is no longer there and the realisation quickly dawns that I am only going through the motions.
To give some indication of the scale of the problem, Cllr Hall claimed £9,600 in the financial year 2004 -2005 and a piddling £416 last year.
How are the mighty fallen?
However, I am pleased to say that an inspection of the Leader's travel claims proved rather more rewarding.
The Leader, I would have to say, has historically been a very modest claimer (allegedly).
Before the latest year to be reported (2012-2013) his claims had been:
2009-2010, nil
2010-2011, £311, and
2011-2012, nil.
So it was something of a surprise to find he had been paid £4,649 for 2012-2013.
My first thought was that this was something to do with his new duties as leader, but a closer look revealed that the reason for this inflated figure was that he had submitted back claims to cover the four previous years.
It is difficult to see how this is possible because the members' handbook clearly states that claims must be made within three months of the date they are incurred.
Indeed members who have exceeded this time limit by just a few days tell me that a curt letter reminding them of their obligations usually follows.
With his Leader's/councillor's allowance of £47,500 he surely can't be feeling the pinch, so it is difficult to understand what brought on this sudden urge to bring himself up to date..
The timing of these late claims is interesting because closer inspection reveals that all were submitted on 10 April 2012 which was too late for them to be included in the accounts for 2011 -2012 (closing date 31 March 2012).
It was also almost exactly a week after the closing date for nominations for the 2012 elections.
And, by then, Cllr Adams knew he was to be returned unopposed so questions about his expenses could have no relevance in electoral terms.
Anyone logging on to the council's website in the run up to nomination day would have found that he had claimed a mere £311 over the previous three years.
In fact the information contained on the council's website, even today, is incomplete because it has not been updated to include claims for 2012 - 2013 although they are available at Thornton where the public audit inspection is held.
As I have pointed out previously, some members of the IPG make a big thing about not claiming travelling expenses in their election addresses (Sins of omission) (Fantasy island).
This is designed to persuade voters that they are driven by the love of public service and not the money.
It is also worth noting that there was another biggish claim by Cllr Adams for £2202 in almost identical circumstances for 2008 -2009.
By the time this payment made it into the public domain (summer 2009) the 2008 election was all done and dusted.
And, as this recent backdated claim includes the eight months August 2008 - March 2009, this sum of £2202 must be either for the first four months of 2008 - 2009 (April - July) or include claims from previous year(s)
The amount claimed for the last eight months of 2008 -2009 comes to £836, so it would seem that, unless his rate of claiming in the first four months (£2,200/4 = £550 per month) was roughly five times that of the last eight months (£100 per month), it is most likely to have been the latter
So anyone making enquiries about Cllr Adams' expense claims at the time of the 2008 election would also have been given a less than complete picture.
The members handbook is absolutely clear about the procedure for claiming expenses: "Claims must be submitted no later than three months [Council's emphasis] following the period of the claim".
And the Code of Conduct doesn't leave much room for doubt:
9. You must:
(a) observe the law and your authority's rules governing the claiming of expenses and allowances [my emphasis] in connection with your duties as a member.

Golden slumbers

Cllr Hall's new-found love of his fireside and slippers is not the only change that has taken the fun out of the public audit inspection.
Back in the old days members paid their own hotel bills and reclaimed the money from the council.
This was how I came to find out that, in 1998, Cllr Maurice Hughes had claimed £360 in hotel expenses for a three-night stay in Eastbourne.
I came across the alleged payment while inspecting Cllr Hughes claim forms and when I typed the name of the hotel into the computer up popped an invoice which showed that the council had booked the hotel room and paid for it long before he even left Pembrokeshire.
For those interested in the historical perspective, the full story can be found at Pot and kettle.
Nowadays the council books all hotel accommodation, so the members' claim forms offer no guide.
To make things even more difficult the bookings are routed through various credit card accounts, the invoices for which have not been scanned into the computer.
However, with a bit of patient trawling, it is possible to unearth the odd gem.
One such was the booking in January this year of a room at the Novotel London on behalf of Cllr Jamie Adams.
While Cllr Adams might not be too particular about obeying the council's rules on claiming expenses, it seems he is fastidiousness itself when it comes to his sleeping arrangements, because the instructions accompanying the booking read "Superior room with a queen-size bed" at a cost of £175.95.
The other advantage of this system is that the maximum a member can reclaim for an overnight stay in London is £150, but if booked by the council the sky's the limit.
Also along on this trip was the Chief Executive whose room cost £185.
Now I've never thought of Mr Parry-Jones as the sort of person who would double up on the bacon and eggs, so I can only assume that the extra tenner was for an even more superior room with a king-size bed.

 

Members' allowances and expenses 2012 - 2013.

2012 -2013 being an election year the figures are somewhat out of kilter.
The allowances of those members elected in May 2012 only cover 11 out of the 12 months and some of the payments to sitting members include special responsibility allowances for the period between the beginning of the financial year (April 1 2012) and the election on May 3.
The members allowance scheme for a full year is:
Basic allowance £13,175
Senior Salaries (including Basic Salary)
Leader of the Council £47,500
Deputy Leaders of the Council (x2) £31,120
Cabinet Members £28,780
Chairmen of Committees £21,910
Leader - largest Opposition Group (who do not have a Member in the Executive) £21,910
In addition, all members receive an allowance of £500 to cover IT/office expenses


 Name  Allowances  I T allowance  Travel/subs
 J Adams  43,917  500  4,649
 J Allen-Mirehouse  14,574  500  1,125
P Baker  13,159  500  
 R Bowen  13,159  500  374
 T Brinsden  13,159  500  567
 Daphne Bush  11,865  450  587
 D Bryan  13,968  500  440
 J Davies  15,856  500  832
 Pat Davies  11,865  450  574
 M Edwards  13,159  500  
 W Evans  13,159  500  2,924
 M Evans  13,159  500  
 L Frayling  13,159  500  
 H George  29,848  500  1,342
 B Hall  20,625  500  416
 S Hancock  26,498  500  1,247
 P Harries  11,865  450  935
 Umelda Havard  13,159  500  79
 Tessa Hodgson  11,865  450  527
 D Howlett  20,625  500  
 S Hudson  13,429  500  400
 O James  13,159  500  
 M James  13,159  500  1,841
 Lyn Jenkins  11,865  450  640
 M John  13,159  500  
 S Joseph  11,865  450  
 P Kidney  11,865  450  
 B Kilmister  13,159  500  337
 Alison Lee  11,865  450  185
 K Lewis  19,331  450  873
 R Lewis  29,848  500  3,065
 Pearl Llewellyn  20,625  500  
 D Lloyd  11,865  450  414
 P Miller  12,593  450  65
 P Morgan  20,646  500  574
 E Morse  26,498  500  1,358
 D Neale  13,159  500  
 J Nutting  11,865  450  
 R Owens  11,865  450  260
 M Pepper  20,625  500  1,225
 Sue Perkins  26,768  500  
 J Preston  11,865  450  
 G Price  11,865  450  
 D Pugh  28,398  500  1943
 D Rees  13,150  500  581
 T Richards  13,968  500  181
 K Rowlands  27,847  500  798
 D Simpson  27.847  500  2,520
 R Sinnett  21,434  500  
 P Stock  13,968  500  173
 M Stoddart  13,159  250  
 Vivien Stoddart  13,159  250  
 T Tudor  19,898  500  
A Wilcox  13,159  500  377
 D Wildman  25,449  458  906
A Williams  16,917  500  206
 J Williams  11,865  450  
 M Williams  20,895  500  79
 G Woodham  11,865  450  
 S Yelland  11,865  450  
       

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