Saturday, 1 September 2012

Unexplained Expenses

The Councillor Allowance search facility has reappeared on the Council website, presumably after a bit of an overhaul, and it would also seem, the removal of all the claim forms. The figures are all a bit jumbled so perhaps it's a work in progress and the forms will reappear. Until then I am a little mystified why the petrol expenses are abnormally high for the month of May, particularly as they are supposed to be for "approved duties only".

As the expenses claimed are actually for the previous month we can assume we're talking about April. It was an average month for meetings, slightly less in fact due to the Easter break and the cancellation of the full council meeting. In May, (election month) there was only one meeting, Act One of the AGM.

The only other occurrence happening around this time was extensive fuel consumption as candidates vied for votes across the county, the cost of which can of course be reclaimed through the election process - a different pot, I would imagine, to that of 'approved duties'. My own Councillor, Tom Theophilus, who regularly tops the expenses charts anyway, claimed £420 more around election time than he did the previous month and I heard that this time he had to knock on doors in every corner of this rural ward. No one's seen sight nor sound of him since mind you.

Anyway, all a bit of a mystery really.

Total Travelling Expenses for all Councillors;

April      £3,794
May     £10,618
June      £2,685
July       £4,989 

and total Subsistence (Dinners) claims;

April         £83.45
May        £415.11
June         £14


Cneifiwr said...

May certainly stands out like a sore thumb, especially as business was winding down ahead of the election.

Perhaps there was a last minute rush to submit claims from councillors who had not done their expenses for a while, but it is hard not to conclude that many voters who never normally see their councillor will have received a surprise visit under "approved duties".

Anonymous said...

It's probably for attending training and group meetings (if they get expenses for attending group meetings).

caebrwyn said...

As this amount is twice as much as any other month in the past three years I think it needs further explanation.
Prompt publication of the claim forms may help.

Anonymous said...

I think the answer is pretty simple; the figures are for expenses occurred during the month of May. The May following a Council election is a veritable honeypot of 'approved duties' as the new councillor training programme is deployed to introduce the new and re-familiarise the old through dozens of training seminars and sessions. A few - like planning and licensing training - is compulsory for all.

So for nearly every day for a month our elected members can get paid to travel to County Hall and get paid lunch money. It's like a four-yearly holiday for those that treat the Members' Room in County Hall like a day centre. Gratis hot drinks, newspapers and Sky TV all paid for by Johnny Council Taxpayer.

Visiting constituents is not an 'approved duty' and such good ol' Tom nor any Councillor could have claimed travel and food for house visits. That is what the Basic Allowance should renumerate Members for. Besides, any visits in April (election month) would be listed and counted under April - at time of expense occurance not claim.

Shoddy journalism Jacqui. Not a patch on Old Grumpy from Pembrokeshire.

caebrwyn said...

That's me told then!!

Anonymous said...

Well according to a Carmarthenshire Council spokeswoman, "Councillors attend hundreds of meetings every year on behalf of people in their communities....they also have FORTNIGHTLY official meetings and are required to take part in a wide range of other duties, usually on a DAILY basis, involving their portfolio and area of responsibility ........All councillors also work in their communities and are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week." Are you working the night shift tonight Jacqui? Do me a favour, give Tom a call and ask him on behalf of your readers, how many meetings he has attended since being re-elected and what portion of the expenses are his?

APTSec said...

Anon it looks as if you may be able to help me with some information that I am having difficulty finding at the moment. Could you post up the links to recommended / contractual working hours for elected members. Are they the same countrywide and for all Local Authorities? In the meantime I'll keep scouring the COSLA and Improvement service sites. Thanks

APTSec said...

I have found this so far:

'..."Will I get paid for being a Councillor"...Councillors do not receive a salary. However, you will be paid a 'member's allowance' to reimburse you for time and expenses incurred while on council business. Each council sets its own rate for members' allowances. You can find out more information about allowances from your local council or through its website.

"Can I be a councillor and have a job?"...Yes. By law if you are working your employer must allow you to take a reasonable amount of time off during working hours to perform your duties as a councillor. The amount of time off will depend on your responsibilities and the effect of your absence on your employer's business. You should discuss this with your employer before making the commitment.

"How much of my time will it require"...How much time it takes being a councillor is largely up to you and the commitments you might take on as a councillor. The time commitment could range from between 5 and 20 hours a week - your role within the council would determine just how much time you should be prepared to give to being a councillor. You will be expected to attend some council meetings which are often held in the evening so that councillors can attend after work hours.

Like most things in life, what you get back depends on how much you put in...'

That particular info sheet from East of England LGA seems to suggest that councillors are not expected to work 24/7 for the council (as unwaged councillors) and if they have paid employment as well, then surely they have to maintain a high standard of concentration on their paid work whilst they are there and make sure they have enough rest to do their work well. As far as I am aware not even doctors are expected to be on call 24/7 these days - although they were, especially in remote practices and anecdotally it was the doctors wife who used to be up as well manning the phones between calls.

APTSec said...

Sorry, me again, last comment for now. Still no luck on absolute hours but here is something from Moray in Scotland, where of course our Elected Members are paid.

"How much of my time will being a councillor take up?"

'...According to the commitments you take on, this can vary from a few hours each week to several hours each day.

Committee Meetings are held during the day and last up to 3 hours, you will possibly have to attend meetings in the evening with local community groups and may be required to travel to meetings outside Moray.

In preparation for meetings you will have to read council documents and reports and you will also have to deal with correspondence from the residents in your ward. It can be a challenge to balance this with having a job, a family and outside interests...'

Guide for Council candidates

'...Elected councillors receive a basic salary of £16,234 per annum'

Anonymous said...


Good question but unfortunately, I do not have the answer. You might find what you are looking for on the website. In respect of the Carmarthenshire County Council Spokeswoman, the quote was taken from the website below:-

APTSec said...

Thanks for that Anon; I have just had a read over the piece at the link you gave.

Interestingly, the 'City and County of Swansea' web site provides a link to the WLGA guide 'Be a Councillor' as part of Swansea's info for 2012 council election candidates.

One of the sections in the guide is described as 'real life examples of a typical week in the life of a councillor', and this is quite interesting and certainly does not paint a picture of 24/7, although the typical councillor here is busy.

I have just tried sourcing information from Carmarthenshire CC's web site and could not find much so phoned Demcratic services and they are going to email me the stiff they were sent from the WLGA.

I cannot seem to find anything that suggests that councillors are contractually obliged to work a set number of hours or that Carmarthenshire is a 'special case'.

caebrwyn said...

Good luck with your research. I don't believe there are any contractual obligations for set hours. I, like you, have seen various examples of suggested hours and that a councillor can expect to work the 'equivalent of a three day week', which some do, and some definitely don't.

APTSec said...

Democratic Services forwarded me a link to the relevant WLGA page and guidance for councillors in Wales on that page.

Apologies for silly spelling in last comment - dashed out without checking over, oops

Anonymous said...

I think Democratic Services need to forward the WLGA link to the Spokeswoman who made such an absurd statement!!!!