Swansea Council expense claims keep on shrinking down
SWANSEA councillors have continued to rein in their expense claims, new figures have shown.
During 2011/12, the 72 councillors claimed a total of £17,672 in food, mileage and other travel claims, with several claiming nothing at all.
The previous year, councillors claimed £26,134 in the above categories, while the year before that they claimed £28,372.
These expenses are separate to the salaries paid to councillors as remuneration for the work they do. And their expense claims are scanned onto the council's website and can be scrutinised by the public.
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During 2011/12, three senior councillors claimed more than £1,000. Former councillor and deputy leader John Hague claimed £987 on travel costs, £264 on subsistence and £71 on mileage. He said the claims were all for council business and related to meetings in places including London and Birmingham.
He added that he had never claimed mileage costs travelling to and from the Civic Centre during his six years as a Cabinet member, unlike some others.
Another former councillor, and Cabinet member, Nick Tregoning, claimed £779 on subsistence, £473 on travel and £43 mileage during 2011/12.
Labour group leader and current council leader David Phillips claimed £552 on subsistence and £830 on travel.
Deputy council leader Christine Richards, who did not make any expense claims last financial year, save for the provision of a computer, said she felt such matters should be left to the individual.
"I have not claimed expenses myself," she said. "It's not any huge moral standpoint — I just have not done it. People vary. I know there are some councillors who have tried to make a big moral issue about this. And I know the public can look at politicians and say they are absolutely taking the mickey.
"But there is a fundamental line — nobody should be excluded from standing for office because they cannot afford to fund themselves.
"I agree that people should stick within the rules, and have a mind to the fact that they are spending public money."
Councillor Wendy Fitzgerald was another of those who didn't claim for expenses, save for the provision of a computer. She said in her case it was a conscious decision.
The former Cabinet member said: "When I was in the administration, they (opponents) would always find something to pick on me, so I thought, 'Blow this', and I have not bothered to claim.
"It is a difficult one. Some councillors live quite a way away, and it does all mount up if you go to a lot of meetings."
This was particularly true, she said, if you were a Cabinet member with more meetings than normal to attend.
She added that it might be impractical to get to a meeting using public transport in Mid Wales, for example, so claiming mileage was not unreasonable. And using your car in such an instance meant you were less likely to need an overnight stay.
Virtually all 72 councillors claimed computer costs —- and Mrs Fitzgerald wondered how councillors could do their jobs without being in the digital age.
After this May's election, councillors were also paid a £1,008 allowance to buy a computer and/or a printer, which will be followed by a £200 per annum supplement. Currently, 51 councillors receive a £13,175 salary. Eight Cabinet members receive a £31,900 salary, nine councillors and committee chairmen receive £21,910, while the Lord Mayor of Swansea and his deputy receive £23,715 and £18,445 respectively. The council leader and his deputy receive £52,700 and £37,100.