Well surprise surprise! On the day after the elections, Barnet Council finally released details of the expenses claimed by councillors. The figures show that LibDem Leader Jack Cohen and Tory councillor Joan Scannell have both repaid money to the council for personal telephone calls which they had previously claimed from taxpayers.
As regular readers will recall, Don’t Call Me Dave first requested details of expense claims over a year ago. Since then, the council produced an ever more imaginative list of excuses for not providing the information before first claiming that the details would be provided by 30th April and then, after an e-mail from Brian Coleman, moving the date to 7th May - the day after voters went to the polls.
Click the image below to enlarge or here to download the complete spreadsheet showing all the claims from 2006 to 2009.
The amount repaid by Jack Cohen was £60 and by Joan Scannell £44.10 - not quite on the same scale as the MPs expenses scandal, but taxpayers' money all the same.
Three questions arise from this:
1. Would it have made any difference at the polls if voters had known that their candidates had claimed for personal telephone calls?
2. Does anyone believe that these sums would have been repaid had DCMD not made his Freedom of Information request?
3. Does anyone believe that Jack Cohen and Joan Scannell are the only two councillors in Barnet who have used their taxpayer funded expense accounts to erroneously claim for personal items?
Barnet’s Chief Executive Nick Walkley is paid £200,000 a year. For that money he needs to explain to the public precisely why it took so long for this information to be released, why there was an abject failure by the council to properly scrutinise the claims made by councillors, and what steps he is taking to prevent any future absues of the system?