Saturday, 27 October 2012

Expenses and Claim Forms

Bloggers in Carmarthenshire hoping for enlightened transparency from the council website continue to be disappointed. The abysmal effort known as the 'Councillor's Allowance search facility' has been a confusing mess of double, sometimes triple entries and missing fuel claim forms for several months. The council were alerted to all this and we're now lumbered with having to take their word for it that no one was overpaid. Several weeks on, most of the double entries and muddled figures are still there.

The claim forms which are published show some interesting entries, back in December, Cllr Madge, then an Executive Board Member rather than Leader, attended a five hour 'press review' at County Hall and an eight hour session in January, move forward to February and he had a five hour meeting with Debbie Williams, the press office manager. I'm sure he wasn't singled out for special attention but the haphazard publication of the forms doesn't tell if he was accompanied by colleagues or not. Photoshoots are another favourite with Executive Board Members and we can, for example, see that Cllr Madge, then on £32,401 per annum, included a four mile round trip to Ammanford in his claims. Of course these are 'approved duties' and Cllr Madge is not claiming anything to which he is not entitled. 

According to the search facility, the running total for allowances, senior salaries and expenses for the current financial year is £732,115 which includes £23,206 for travelling. Quite a few councillors claim nothing at all, either living a stone's throw from County Hall or who feel that the basic allowance plus special responsibility allowance is sufficient to cover a bit of petrol. My own Councillor, Tom Theophilus regularly tops the expenses chart, despite receiving a 'senior salary' of £1825 per month, he tops this up by driving relentlessly to and fro County Hall, claiming over £300 in July alone. Locals have been asking me what exactly he does there....

Of course, these figures are for the seventy-four councillors and pale into insignificance compared to the combined salaries of the handful of senior executive officers, and as for the details of expenses claimed by the top brass, we don't know, I did ask but the council refused to tell me.

The Independent Group, as we should know by now, acts as a political party, tightly whipped and loyal to the regime, to a man, or woman. There's nothing independent about them. There are, of course unaffiliated, or 'real' independents who continue to resist the charms of Meryl and Pam. There is a furore in Pembrokeshire at the moment, (they have a similar Independent Party arrangement), that some of those councillors used council computers for the purpose of canvassing and political wheeling and dealing in the run up to the May election. Whether this is the case in Carmarthenshire, I couldn't say, but if anyone has any interesting information, there are bloggers who'd like to know, confidence guaranteed of course.

Aside from that, the sprinkling of recent claim forms which have been published, show attendance at an 'Independent Group Meeting' at County Hall on the 10th July. I couldn't find anything comparable for either the Plaid or Labour groups, who presumably meet either informally or elsewhere, and hire halls etc at their own, or party's expense. Why the Independent Party should be able to meet as a political group, in County Hall, at taxpayers expense, and as an 'approved duty' I would like to know. I'm sure someone will tell me, though I guess it's best not use a council computer to do it though....


Anonymous said...

I dont know about anybody else but Im really pissed off with local politicians.

I read several blogs on a regular basis about carms and pembs. Your blog, Y Cyneifwr, Old Grumpy and of late Jacob Williams who has really lifted the lid off the claims (lies) by local councillors in Pembs who maintain that the local independant group is not a party - shambolic !

Blogs now represent the opposition and for me have replaced the local media. Local paper have become supine in the face of overpowefull chief executives who wield an advertising budget !

I dont knw about anybody else but the following things really make me cross

1 Use of public money for a church bowling alley when other services will be cut.

2 refusal by local councillors to allow citizen journalism. Filming of meetings WILL come eventually and they should get used to it.

3 Senior council bosses who seem to take part in political debates and seem to manipulate rules to avoid proper debate. Who elected these people - nobody !

4 Denying local people free access to local council meetings including children.

5 Political groups who try to convince people they are not groups - see Jacobs blog !

What are other people pissed most off about ??

Anonymous said...

What pisses me off most is that the autocratic, do what we like and two fingers up to you poor plebby council tax payers attitude that too many of the local polticians and HRH Mark James have, then sets a cultural norm for some senior council staff. They believe that they can behave as they like too and this makes working collaboratively with them very difficult indeed - because frankly, they belive they are protected by their organisational culture.
And those of them who are not so deluded are too scared to say anything!