Wednesday 24th May 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer
  • Despite repeated calls to reform the system nearly £32,000 per annum is being overpaid to Councillors across North Yorkshire in the form of an IT / Broadband Allowance.
  • Over the last four years around £125,000 has been overpaid to Councillors across North Yorkshire.
  • Despite Senior County Council Officers being aware of the problem, the status quo where public funds are misused and wasted continues unabated.
  • The North Yorkshire County Council Monitoring Officer states that ‘members are entitled to allowances’. The question of whether they are morally entitled to the allowance is ignored.

Facts & Figures

There are 72 Councillors elected to North Yorkshire County Council.

Of those 72 Councillors, 49 also sit on Tier-2 District or Borough Councils.

Of those 49 Councillors, 37 receive an IT / Broadband Allowance from both North Yorkshire County Council and their local Tier-2 Council.

75% of Councillors who are able to receive an IT / Broadband allowance from both of the Councils they are elected to, elect to receive two IT / Broadband allowances.

Of the 37 Councillors who are receiving two IT / Broadband allowances;

  • 20 are Conservative,
  • 9 are Independent,
  • 7 are Lib Dems
  • 1 is Liberal.

The 37 North Yorkshire County Councillors who have received two Broadband Allowances sit on the following local authorities;

10 sit on Scarborough Borough Council;

Cllr Andrew Backhouse
Cllr John Blackburn
Cllr Bill Chatt
Cllr Mike Cockerill
Cllr David Jeffels
Cllr Janet Jefferson
Cllr Penny Marsden
Cllr Joe Plant
Cllr Peter Popple
Cllr Brian Simpson

9 sit on Harrogate Borough Council;

Cllr Jim Clark
Cllr Margaret-Ann de Courcey-Bayley
Cllr John Fox
Cllr Andrew Goss
Cllr Bill Hoult
Cllr Don Mackenzie
Cllr John Savage
Cllr Geoff Webber
Cllr Andrew Williams

7 sit on Hambleton District Council;

Cllr Arthur Barker
Cllr David Blades
Cllr Tony Hall
Cllr Neville Huxtable
Cllr Caroline Patmore
Cllr Peter Sowray
Cllr Tim Swales

5 sit on Craven District Council;

Cllr Philip Barrett
Cllr Polly English
Cllr Robert Heseltine
Cllr David Ireton
Cllr Richard Welch

5 sit on Selby District Council;

Cllr Elizabeth Casling
Cllr Mike Jordan
Cllr John McCartney
Cllr Chris Pearson
Cllr Dave Peart

1 sits on Richmondshire District Council;

Cllr Stuart Parsons

Problem

A sizable proportion of Councillors in North Yorkshire are milking the system and profiteering at the public’s expense. Whether they have done so intentionally or unintentionally is unknown, but most have attended the relevant meetings so they should be aware they receive money from both NYCC and their local Tier 2 Borough or District Council for Broadband.

Council Officers who were investigating previous complaints about double payments at North Yorkshire County and Scarborough Borough Councils did not do so independently. The Officers produced one-sided reports and passed those to the Standards Committees.

Sources & Further Information

This downloadable spreadsheet contains a list of payments made over the last four years. They were gathered from FOI requests and documentation available on the respective Authority websites. All payments listed in BOLD denote two payments in a single calendar year.

  • Craven District Council currently give their Councillors a yearly IT Allowance of £400 to cover the cost of Broadband and IT equipment such as a laptop, printer and network hardware. Up until the end of financial year 2009/10 the IT Allowance used to be a separate element of £600, but Councillors voted to roll the IT Allowance into the Basic Allowance effectively cutting the cost of the IT allowance by £200 to the current level of £400. I’ve apportioned nearly half of the IT Allowance, £180, towards the cost of Broadband.
  • Hambleton District Council do not give their Councillors a Broadband Allowance. They expect that elected members already have Broadband, but, if not, they will arrange for Broadband to be installed at the Councillor’s home address and the Council will pick up the cost of the installation and the monthly fee. The average cost per elected member is £403.08 per annum. Currently, 18 of the 44 elected members receive Broadband paid for by Hambleton District Council. HDC will not divulge the identity of those Cllrs and claim the information is sensitive under the Data Protection Act.  The nine Hambleton District Councillors who also sit on NYCC were asked if they are in receipt of one of the Broadband connections. The nine Cllrs were emailed twice, to their official email addresses at both Councils, asking the question. Four responses were received. Two Cllrs said they are not in receipt of a Broadband connection paid for by HDC. Two Cllrs were evasive and would not answer the question. The other five Cllrs have not responded to any of the emails. It is assumed the seven Cllrs who will not answer the question are in receipt of one of the HDC-funded Broadband connections.
  • Harrogate Borough Council currently give Councillors a yearly Allowance of roughly £255 to cover the cost of Broadband.
  • North Yorkshire County Council currently give their Councillors a yearly allowance of £501.23 to cover the cost of Broadband. Up until the end of financial year 2009/10 the allowance used to be a separate element. In Dec 2008 Councillors discussed whether to roll the IT/Broadband Allowance into their Basic Allowance. In December 2009, they elected to roll the IT/Broadband Allowance into their Basic Allowance, which increased proportionately.
  • Richmondshire District Council currently give Councillors a yearly allowance of £180 to cover the cost of Broadband.
  • Ryedale District Council do not give their Councillors a Broadband Allowance. They expect that elected members already have Broadband, but if not they expect the Councillors to pay for Broadband out of their Basic Allowance.
  • Scarborough Borough Council gave their Councillors a yearly allowance of £255 for many years. In 2012/13 they gave their elected members iPads and the Council now directly picks up the bill for 3G connectivity.
  • Selby District Council currently give their Councillors three different amounts for Broadband depending on their circumstances. If the Councillor uses their own PC they receive a £330 yearly allowance with £180 earmarked towards Broadband. If the elected member uses a Selby District Council PC they receive a £180 yearly allowance for Broadband. If the Councillor uses North Yorkshire County Council equipment they receive a £50 yearly allowance for consumables only.

Conclusion

NYCC should remove the £501 IT / Broadband Allowance from the £8,994 Councillor Basic Allowance, then implement a system which pays an IT / Broadband Allowance to elected members who do not receive a similar allowance from any other bodies they are elected to.

Nationally, Standards Committees should be reconstituted with independent members of the public and they should sit in judgement on how Councillors have acted.

The system where Councillors sit on Standards Committees and sit in judgement on fellow Councillors and party members without any independent scrutiny is unfit for purpose and is being abused.

Standards Committees should be reconstituted with independent members of the public and an independent panel should sit to decide on if the Councillors allowance schemes are appropriate, true and fair.

Article first posted to Real Whitby on February 17 2013.

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