Council rejects call to publish expenses claims each month
A call to publish the amount of expenses claimed by councillors every month has been rejected because of a lack of staff.
Conservative councillor Anne Meadows pushed for the figures to be published monthly after it took five months for Brighton and Hove City Council to post details of last year’s expenses claims on its website.
And it follows the council’s failure to publish expenses for three years until public questions about the matter.
Councillor Meadows asked for monthly updates in a letter to the council’s chief executive Geoff Raw which she presented to the Audit and Standards Committee yesterday (Tuesday 29 November).
She said that the council needed to regain public trust after questions about childcare expenses claims submitted by the former mayor of Brighton and Hove, Green councillor Alex Phillips.
Councillor Meadows said: “Time and again, we have seen that councillors’ expenses were not published.
“That’s pre-covid. That can’t be used as an excuse. The council has apologised each time but it has happened several times.”
She said that local authorities such as Sheffield City Council published the expenses claims for its 84 councillors every month and added that East Sussex County Council did the same for its 50 councillors.
Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson, who chairs the Audit and Standards Committee, said that the council did “not have the officer resource” to publish monthly figures.
The legal requirement is to publish allowances and expenses figures annually.
The Green council leader Phélim Mac Cafferty has previously committed to putting them on the council’s website within two months of the end of the financial year.
After recommendations at a meeting of the committee in June, council officials are setting up an online expenses system to prevent completed forms from going missing as they have in the past.
A report on the new process is due to be presented to the next meeting of the committee on Tuesday 24 January.
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The councillors are to get an on-line expenses system. Wow! Standard practice in industry – I filled them in online over 25 years ago. The basics of how badly the council is set up and run keep coming to light. Unfortunately less surprised every time you hear one.
The council says that there isn’t resource – but perhaps that’s because it is being poorly used processing paper forms!
We need major change. How can the senior managers at the council, on six figure salaries, not be leading this? Are they too insulated from best practices that ways of working that are standard in the private sector for decades haven’t yet been adopted?
So the council did “not have the officer resource” to publish monthly figures.
How about reallocating one of the 26 “vital” communications officers pushing pro-council propaganda on social media? This group is, apparently, double the size of that equivalent sized councils require.
Do we really need a full-time biodiversity officer?