July 4 2013
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:
2010-2011, £311, and
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.
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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