Councillors urged to publish expenses monthly after row about openness

A Conservative is calling for councillors’ expenses to be published monthly instead of annually after rows about openness.

Anne Meadows

Councillor Anne Meadows has written to Brighton and Hove City Council’s chief executive Geoff Raw asking for the change.

It follows the council’s failure to publish councillors’ expenses on its website for three years from April 2019 to April 2021.

Spacewords Brighton

Despite a pledge to improve transparency, this year it took the council five months to publish expenses from the 2021-22 financial year.

In the past, the council has also been criticised for being slow to publish creditor payments in line with transparency rules.

Councillor Meadows wrote that the council had “failed in its statutory duty” to publish promptly details about members’ expenses claims.

The Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty promised that all expenses would be published within two months of the financial year-end but Councillor Meadows said that this did not go far enough.

The letter from Councillor Meadows follows the row about expenses claims submitted by the former mayor of Brighton and Hove, Councillor Alex Phillips.

Along with other councillors – and unlike council staff – she submitted expenses claims on paper and it emerged that some were submitted late and some records were lost.

Public questions led to an investigation. When it was completed, the council’s Audit and Standards Committee was told that there was “no indication” of deception relating to claims for childcare by Councillor Phillips.

The committee asked officials to look at switching the claims process from paper to online.

Councillor Meadows wrote that other councils already reported expenses claims each month so that taxpayers could see where their money was going.

Former mayor Alex Phillips

She said: “Given the problems recently where childcare expenses were under scrutiny, we feel it is important to have trust, openness and some honesty around councillors’ expenses.

“It’s no longer good enough to make assurances as we have had those in the past without success.

“The leader of the council made assurances around childcare expenses and that the expenses of all councillors would be released.

“In addition, where expenses have not been published on time (since 2018) in line with local authority regulations, we need to know what it is the administration is hiding from us.

“What is their excuse? Apart from covering up previous maladministration of expenses, how will they determine accountability? It is not a difficult thing to administer, so why isn’t it done?”

The letter from Councillor Meadows has been included in the papers for the next meeting of the Audit and Standards Committee.

The meeting is due to start at 4pm next Tuesday (29 November) at Hove Town Hall and to be webcast on the council’s website.

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