Five Ashfield councillors racked up £1,000 in travel expenses last year, while the other 30 didn’t claim a penny.
A new Chad investigation looks into the pay our district councillors receive in basic allowances and travel and subsistence costs.
- £500 bonus now received if members have good meeting attendance
- £1,000 travel costs racked up by five councillors
- Only one meal paid for from the public purse all year
Up until this summer, all councillors received a basic allowance of £6,800 per year for the public duties but new rules now mean that councillors have to keep good attendance records to receive the full amount.
Over the year, close to £400,000 was handed out to elected members of the council in expenses and allowances, revealed by newly published remuneration stats for council pay and expense claims.
But despite new rules, the total has actually increased on the previous year, from £375,000 to £384,000.
£1,037 in travel costs was racked up by only five of 35 councillors, while all others didn’t submit a single train ticket or petrol receipt.
Coun Mike Smith submitted a travel claim for £150 while Glenys Maxwell claimed £266.50 in mileage.
Coun Helen Hollis claimed both £198 in petrol and train travel for £21.
Only one councillor claimed for a meal with public money. Mike Smith asked for a refund of £47.35 from the subsistence allowance while all other councillors paid for their own meals. The Chad understands this was for overnight accommodation in South Shields while attending an Industrial Communities Alliance meeting.
Paul Roberts, Skegby Labour, also claimed £215 and leader of the council Cheryl Butler claimed £187 in mileage.
Council leader Cheryl Butler said her travel claims were made for attending leadership training courses at Warrick University on three separate occasions. She added: “Anything outside of the district I will claim for and anything inside I won’t claim for.”
The leader also praised Councillor Glenys Maxwell for helping to save even more money from day-today travel expenses, adding: “As leader of the council at the time, Glenys could have used the official car for her travel but on many occasions she actually drove in her own car, saving the council more money that hasn’t appeared in the expenses.”
Glenys Maxwell, Labour member for Huthwaite and Brierley said: “Instead of using a council car I usually use my own car and spent on fuel and parking for travelling in my job for the council.”
The other members were not available for comment.
Sutton member Jason Zadrozny, who made no expense claims for the year, said it’s become a matter of preference whether councillors claim or not.
He said: “On county council business I do make claims, but for the district – with the budget cuts we’re seeing we’re now arguing over pounds, not thousands, so I don’t think I could look my residents in the eye to make a claim when we can’t even afford street wardens. “But I think it’s a dangerous precedent to chastise councillors for making claims. Some can’t afford the travel and it’s important for them to be included in council work.
Ashfield District Council said there are new rules preventing councillors from claiming expenses for business undertaken within the authority area, and only for regional duties.
Travel costs and eating allowances are paid out in the conduct of council business, and the figures have actually fallen since list year, when travel and subsistance topped £1.700.
Councillors also get a base pay rate for their services to the council, usually in the region of £6-7,000 and those with special responsibilities have further remuneration for the extra duties they hold. Cheryl Butler, as council leader , is the highest paid councillor with a total of £24,800 per year.
Changes brought in by brought in by an independent remuneration panel in July introduced a new scheme took away £500 of their basic allowance, originally £6,800, and said they could have it back if they attend 70 per cent of formal meetings.
A council document said the panel resolved that “The £500 per Member savings be re-assigned as a ‘Performance SRA’ to be paid to all Members who attend 70% of all their formal meetings and including all compulsory/statutory training events.”
The independent panel was led by local government expect Dr Declan Hall said the bonus was really for councillors who are shown to put in exemplary effort in their work, and the attendance of meetings was more of a way of measuring their effort.
He said: “It is clear there is a sense of inequity in the fact that all Members receive the same Basic Allowance regardless of their workloads.
Now, since the plan is imposed, all members receive what they would have done previously, “as long as they can demonstrate they are putting in the effort.”
“The simplest metric by which to gauge additional effort is attendance at meetings. While attending meetings is not the sole focus of a Members’ work it is an important one that can be measured.”
What is your response to your report on councillors expenses? Should councillors be rewarded for attending meetings when they should be doing so anyway? Is it right that some councillors make claims for travel while others fund business trips out of their own pocket? let us know at email@example.com