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County council to double-check expenses system after £43,000 claimed

Nottinghamshire County Council’s leader says his administration will check if the councillors’ expenses system for travel “is right” after nearly £44,000 was claimed last year.

Figures produced by the authority this week show that, across the 66 members elected onto the council, £43,983.22 was claimed for travel in the most recent financial year.

The figures, accurate for the 12 months to March 31, 2022, were more than £10,000 higher than the £32,254.55 figure claimed a year earlier.

This included £35,206.42 in claims across the Conservative administration’s 35 councillors, with a further £7,281.10 claimed by Labour’s 15 politicians.

The Independent Alliance’s 15 members claimed £1,189.70 while the remaining £306 was claimed by unaligned independent Cllr Steve Garner.

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Some councillors expensed nothing for the financial year while the claims  of others totalled thousands of pounds.

The two highest claimants were Cllr Tracey Taylor (Con), cabinet member for children and families, and Cllr Boyd Elliott (Con), who represents Calverton.

Cllr Taylor, who claimed £4,877.18, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service her claims were for regular 93-mile round trips from her Misterton division to County Hall, as well as visits to schools as a cabinet member.

Cllr Elliott. who claimed £3,472.55 last year, says his claims related to support for charities in his area, help with food schemes and work with outside bodies he chairs as part of his county councillor role.

However, the expenses figures led to the Independent Alliance opposition group calling for the policy to be immediately reviewed.

Cllr Steve Carr (Lib Dem), who is a member of the group, raised concerns during the authority’s overview scrutiny committee on May 19.

He said: “Can we have a look at how much councillors are claiming in mileage expenses?

“One councillor has claimed enough over the last two years to drive to the Great Wall of China and back.

“The disparity and the huge discrepancies between different councillors need to be looked at.

“I appreciate that some will have duties that take them to schools and visits to people’s homes, but that’s not always the case.

“I wonder how much scrutiny is being done with regards to these claims.”

In response, Cllr Philip Owen, chairman of the authority’s governance and ethics committee, said the issue will be looked at if it becomes “pressing”.

He said: “Scrutiny of travelling expenses falls to the remit of the governance and ethics committee and I’m sure we will be delighted to have a look at this at some point if it is a pressing issue.”

Cllr Ben Bradley MP (Con), the authority’s leader, was asked whether residents get value for money from the expenses.

In response, the Mansfield MP – who himself claimed £362.45 for the year – said this “depends on the case” but that he will “look at that and make sure the system is right”.

“All county councillors claim varying amounts of expenses,” he said.

“There are some cabinet members who travel around the county all the time and perhaps others who don’t show up to anything at all and, therefore don’t have many expenses at all.

“It depends on the case, I think we have a pretty robust system in place to try and manage that, and if there are any problems within it, we will look at it and change it.

“I’m aware of reports this week and some fingers pointed at particular individuals, so we will look at that and make sure the system is right.”

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