Tuesday 23 February 2010

Freer’s £933 phone bill. Paid for by us.

Following Don’t Call Me Dave’s recent accusation of a cover-up, Barnet Council has now released limited information regarding councillors’ expenses for the period 2008/09. Click on the image below for a larger picture or here to download the file as a PDF.

The most striking feature is the massive difference in the amounts claimed for telephone calls and line rental charges.

Some councillors did not claim anything at all, but of those who did, the telephone call claims range from £6.64 Terry Burton (Conservative) to £553.98 Mike Freer (Conservative).

The line rental claims range from £26.25 Wayne Casey (LibDem) to £379.21 for Mike Freer, whose total phone charges amount to £933.19 - far more than any other councillor. Nice to see Cllr Freer leading from the front again.

But why are some councillors claiming so much for line rental, compared to others? Fiona Bulmer (Conservative) was not far behind Mike Freer at £328.83, followed by Andrew Harper (Conservative) £290.51, Matthew Offord (Conservative) £269.88, Anita Campbell (Labour) £267.66, Barry Rawlings (Labour) £262.63, Helena Hart (Conservative) £253.82, Anne Hutton (Labour) £240.01, Jack Cohen (LibDem) £239.95 and Alison Moore (Labour) £231.85.

When you look at the cost of the phone calls, it is not unreasonable for the leader of the council to have a higher bill than the other sheep councillors, but how has backbench Labour councillor Gill Sergeant managed to run up a bill of £369.31, which is not only more than former deputy council leader Matthew Offord’s claim of £310.23 but also significantly higher than her own party leader Alison Moore’s claim of £275.27?

Backbench councillor Wendy Prentice (Conservative) spent a massive £311.45 on calls as did Jim Tierney (Labour) £274.67, Jack Cohen £250.64 and Daniel Webb (Conservative) £237.46.

With so many telephone calling plans available costing just a few Pounds a month, it does appear that Barnet taxpayers are not getting very good value for money.

Although the publication of these figures was long overdue, it does now beg the question as to what, if any, scrutiny of this expenditure takes place? Councillors claimed a total of £5,360.93 just on phone calls. Were they all made on official council business or did some unscrupulous councillors claim for party political and/or personal calls as well?

Whilst Mike Freer’s telephone claims were high, his £29.07 claim for stationery was very modest when compared to Wayne Casey £407.67, Brian Gordon (Conservative) £268.84, Sachin Rajput (Conservative) £234.82, Ross Houston (Labour) £196.85, Andreas Tambourides (Conservative) £193.17, Monroe Palmer (LibDem) £181.75 and Charlie O-Macauley (Labour) £172.79.

Additionally, Sachin Rajput claimed £686.25 for office furniture & equipment, making him the second most expensive councillor (excluding allowances) in the London Borough of Barnet with a total expense claim of £1,671.55 - just a fraction behind Mike Freer’s £1,687.74.

These claims pale in comparison to the claims made by Barnet’s three Members of Parliament but, as with all expenses, they should only be incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the course of conducting official council business. Councillors must demonstrate to taxpayers that they have complied with this principle.

It is worth noting that Brian Salinger, who secured victory for the Conservatives in 2006 before being ousted by Mike Freer - under whose watch £27.4 million of taxpayers’ money was deposited in failing Iceland banks - is missing from the above list. That is because Cllr Salinger’s claims were, er, zero.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's quite shocking to compare this spreadsheet, certainly in respect of Mike Freer, to his 'blog' listing all of his expenses. Unfortunately this blog has now been wiped clean http://leaderlistens.com/archives-page/ so the public can no longer compare the figures.

On top of the near £1000 phone calls from his mobile phone, is the Council funded phone line in his office at NLBP together with secretary and computer equipment.

Why can't the Council just cough up the full details and cost of the Leader of the Council?

When I was on the Council from 2002-2006 every Councillor paid for their own phone calls. The policy was that basic line rental would paid by the Council (so residents had a number to call you on) but every call was charged for. When did this change? It wasn't in any budget or on any Cabinet papers I have seen - just who gave the authority for the Council to pay for Councillors phone calls rather than Councillors?

Isn't £20,000+ allowance that so many of the Councillors get is meant to cover stuff like this....

Mike Freer needs to get his cheque book out now methinks....