Sunday 19th November 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

Anonymous Payback Councillors Exposed

A recent article highlighted a mileage repayment from County Councillor David Jeffels (Seamer & Derwent Valley Ward). It was established that Cllr Jeffels attended a ‘Conservative Away Day’ meeting on the 17th October 2011 at the ‘Leeming Bar Hotel’ and claimed traveling costs for attending that non-Council meeting.

An email querying the payment of mileage for the ‘Conservative Away Day’ meeting to North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) resulted with the County Council indicating that they would be seeking to recoup a mileage repayment from Cllr Jeffels.

“So far as the Away Day at the Leeming Bar Hotel is concerned Councillor Jeffels points out that there was no indication at that time that such meetings would not qualify for mileage claims.  However, as the position has now been clarified those expenses are to be recouped.”

I asked NYCC how many other Conservative Councillors had attended the ‘Conservative Away Day’ meeting on the 17th October 2011 and claimed mileage for the journey. The reply was three. NYCC also indicated that the three Conservative Councillors have been asked to repay the mileage claimed.

The initial FOI request asked for the names of the other Conservative Councillors, but NYCC decided to withhold this information citing section 40(2) of the Freedom of Information Act to deny access to information that is obviously in the public interest.

Not being easily deterred, I asked NYCC for an ‘Internal Review’. An Internal Review is a complaint to the Local Authority concerned about their response to your FOI request. If the Local Authority is absolutely determined to illegally withhold information, then giving the Local Authority a chance to review their response to your FOI request is a required step before you take your complaint to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO).

I expected this FOI request to go all the way to the Information Commissioners Office, but NYCC reviewed my request and decided to disclose the information requested.

We can now reveal that the NYCC County Councillors joining County Councillor David Jeffels (Seamer & Derwent Valley Ward) in repaying mileage claimed after attending a ‘Conservative Party Away Day’ on 17th October 2011 at the ‘Leeming Bar Hotel’ are:

County Councillor John Blackburn (Hertford & Cayton Ward)

County Councillor Helen Swiers (Esk Valley Ward)

County Councillor Cliff Trotter (Pannal & Lower Wharfdale Ward)

Article first posted to Real Whitby on October 27 2013.

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