Sunday 26th March 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

Local Councillors Broadband Expense Claims

Here are those Councillor Broadband expenses in full. The sources for the information are listed below if you wish to confirm them against my figures.

Councillor

2010/11

2009/10

2008/9

2007/8

2006/7

BACKHOUSE G A (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

BACKHOUSE G A (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

BACKHOUSE G A (TOTAL)

£756.23

£756.23

£744.00

£729.00

£717.00

BLACKBURN J S (SBC)

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

BLACKBURN J S (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

BLACKBURN J S (TOTAL)

£556.19

£556.19

£543.96

£528.96

£516.96

BROADBENT E (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

BROADBENT E (NYCC)

N/A

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

BROADBENT E (TOTAL)

£255.00

£756.23

£744.00

£729.00

£717.00

CHATT W (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

CHATT W (NYCC)

£501.23

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

CHATT W (TOTAL)

£756.23

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

COCKERILL M J (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£233.06

£0.00

COCKERILL M J (NYCC)

£501.23

N/A

N/A

N/A

£0.00

COCKERILL M J (TOTAL)

£756.23

£255.00

£255.00

£233.06

£0.00

JEFFELS D C (SBC)

£54.96

£54.96

£121.64

£255.00

£255.00

JEFFELS D C (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

JEFFELS D C (TOTAL)

£556.19

£556.19

£610.64

£729.00

£717.00

JEFFERSON J (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

JEFFERSON J (NYCC)

£501.23

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

JEFFERSON J (NYPA)

£0.00

£0.00

N/A

N/A

N/A

JEFFERSON J (TOTAL)

£756.23

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

KENYON J M (SBC)

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

KENYON J M (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

KENYON J M (NYPA)

£712.15*

£847.22*

N/A

N/A

N/A

KENYON J M (TOTAL)

£1,213.38

£1,348.45

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

MARSBURG P (SBC)

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

N/A

MARSBURG P (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

MARSBURG P (TOTAL)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

PLANT J N (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

PLANT J N (NYCC)

£501.23

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

PLANT J N (TOTAL)

£756.23

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

POPPLE P (SBC)

£245.00

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

POPPLE P (NYCC)

£501.23

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

POPPLE P (TOTAL)

£746.23

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

£54.96

SIMPSON B (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

SIMPSON B (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

SIMPSON B (TOTAL)

£756.23

£756.23

£744.00

£729.00

£717.00

TINDALL W H (SBC)

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

£0.00

TINDALL W H (NYCC)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

TINDALL W H (TOTAL)

£501.23

£501.23

£489.00

£474.00

£462.00

*There is an FOI request outstanding for the details of the ‘Telephone & Broadband’ expenses claimed by Miss Kenyon as part of her North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) work. It may well be that the expenses are solely for telephone calls, but if that is the case this article will be updated to reflect that when the FOI request has been answered.

Councillor

2010/11

2009/10

2008/9

2007/8

2006/7

FOX T W (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

FOX R (SBC)

£255.00

£255.00

£255.00

£227.58

N/A

FOX HOUSEHOLD TOTAL

£510.00

£510.00

£510.00

£482.58

£255.00

Source: http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12242

Source: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=11138

Source: http://www.nypa.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=736

Those figures don’t make for pleasant reading at all. There are just so many things to complain about here. Why on earth are Councillors claiming two allowances? Is that a crime? Why are Local Authorities giving credence to the completely out-of-touch deliberations of the so-called Independent Renumeration Committees and implementing their recommendations? Why are NYCC Councillors being given an allowance of £500 quid a year when the real cost of a decent broadband connection is under half of that? Why do these Civil Servants let the waste of public funds continue unabated? Didn’t it strike anyone that two Councillors living at the same address and both claiming the same allowance from the same Local Authority is not right? Is that fraud? Why did that legitimate complaint about Councillor conduct get ignored?

The basic allowance reflects the expectation that Members make available a broadband connection so that they can receive information from the County Council and others by email, and more generally make use of the IT facilities provided to them.

Source: http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=12696&p=0

The claiming of expenses for Broadband by Councillors started in 2001/2 for North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and 2003/4 for Scarborough Borough Council (SBC). In June 2001, Broadband hit Scarborough’s Prospect Road exchange and the take up of Broadband started. And not before time, seven years of dial up and ISDN was soooo frustrating! Prices for ADSL Broadband were generally £30 a month for a 512Kbps line to start, but as the underlying technology changed and BT completed the upgrades of their wholesale ADSL networks, prices dropped and speeds increased rapidly with people able to get Broadband for less than £10 a month today and in most cases 20 times faster than the original 2001 512Kbps headline speeds.

In 2001 NYCC agreed to pay £285 a year for ICT Expenses which were paid as part of the Councillor’s Basic Allowance. That figure remained static until 2005/6 when it was raised to £444 upon the recommendation received from their Independent Renumeration Committee (IRC). It is known at this time that the basic allowance DID include the Broadband Allowance or ICT Portion because a couple of Councillors have refused to take that part of the allowance, for whatever reason. This was documented in their yearly Statement of Accounts for Members which is listed as a source above. Each year since 2005/6 the Broadband Allowance was raised in step with the Basic Allowance. In other words, as broadband prices were rapidly decreasing through the last decade NYCC and their IRC didn’t keep the Broadband Allowance in check with reality.

In 2009/10 NYCC made a change to the Broadband Allowance. No longer would the ICT portion be a separate element that could be refused, it was now a composite part of the Basic Allowance. It should be noted that the ICT portion was valued as £489 in 2008/9 in the Annual Report. No longer will NYCC define the ICT portion in monetary terms, therefore I have increased value of it in line with the rise in the Basic Allowance as NYCC have done in years gone by to arrive at the value of £501.23 for 2010/11. I believe it is still possible for an elected member to renounce any part of the Basic Allowance they wish, but I currently can’t find the documentation on their website.

Doesn’t it smack of arrogance that at the height of the current recession, NYCC Councillors ended up with a pay rise way above the rate of inflation on the recommendation of their Independent Renumeration Committee all whilst NYCC employees were beginning to face years of pay freezes? As Orwell pointed out, some people are indeed more equal than others.

I hate to say it but the approach of Scarborough Borough Council to same expense payment seems almost professional by comparison. Each elected member may claim up to £255 a year for Broadband which is probably about the right price for a business grade Broadband connection. That figure has been the same since 2004/5.

When you look down the list of expense payments for SBC Councillors you can see that the majority claim the full amount for Broadband. Some claim nothing. Some claim £54.96, but the majority claim the full amount. Do you really believe that all those Councillors use the Internet solely for SBC business? It begins to look as if the SBC Internet Allowance is being treated as a perk rather than the expense it should be. If a Councillor only uses the Internet for Council business, then I am perfectly happy for them to claim the allowance. If the Councillor is part of a household that uses the Internet then why on earth are they claiming the full amount from the tax payer? Isn’t that dishonest?

When you dig a little deeper into the SBC figures you will see the current Council Leader, Tom Fox and his wife, who was also an elected member for one term, were both claiming the Broadband Allowance for an address they share. Not being the type of person to keep quiet about this I made a complaint to the relevant department at SBC. I received the following in reply:

The Committee determined to take no action on the complaint in relation to Councillor Tom Fox as under the Member’s Allowance Scheme Council has determined on the advice of the Independent Remuneration Panel that a fixed sum of money be provided toward the telecommunications and internet connection costs of each member.

Source: http://democracy.scarborough.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=16454

When you look more closely at the payments made by SBC to elected members for Internet Allowance, you will see that in fact sixteen of the fifty Councillors didn’t claim the full amount. The dismissal of this quite legitimate complaint is obviously politically motivated. Good to have friends on the relevant committees I guess!

Are Local Authority finances just one big cess pool?

Update: October 19 2012

Just had a look at the figures regarding one of the Councillors listed. Cllr David Billing should not be on this list. I’ve mistakenly put in that he received a full allowance from NYCC in 2009/10. He did not. He received a part allowance for 66 days from NYCC and he also claimed a part allowance from SBC for the other 299 days, so was only ever claiming from one Authority whilst being a dual-hatted Councillor.

Sir, my apologies to you for getting this wrong. Your conduct in the matter of Broadband allowances has been completely above board and I apologise for getting it wrong.

Article first posted to Real Whitby on April 9 2012.

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