It turned out that the Council provided a Broadband connection free of charge to eighteen of their forty-four elected members. There is no cash Broadband Allowance in Hambleton. The average cost of the Broadband connection over the course of a year was £403.08 per Councillor. This means that the total yearly cost borne by Hambleton District Council by providing Broadband to eighteen of their elected members was £7,255.44.
Perusing the yearly published list of Allowances given to elected members did not reveal this perk. I wonder how many other perks the Council provides to elected members that cannot be easily scrutinized, and are hidden from inquisitive eyes?
As regular readers will know, Councillors in the local Tier-2 District or Borough Councils often also hold seats on the Tier-1 North Yorkshire County Council. All Councillors that sit on NYCC receive a £500+ Broadband/IT Allowance as part of their Basic Allowance, unless they choose to ‘renunciate’ that part of their Allowances payment, which none currently do.
There is the possibility here that some or all of the nine Hambleton District Councillors who also sit on North Yorkshire County Council are receiving a total of £900 a year for their Broadband – a princely perk, I’m sure you would agree.
So I asked Hambleton District Council if they would name the Councillors that are in receipt of a free Broadband connection provided by the Council at an average cost of £403.08 per Councillor. Their reply was:
“The Council declined to provide the further information on the basis that the information would reveal personal details and that this would be a breach of the Data Protection Act.”
A pretty laughable response, considering that transparency regarding information about the perks that elected members receive is required under the Council’s Constitution [1.03(7)], and firmly in the public interest. It appears other steps will need to be taken to prise this information out of them.
After that response, the nine Councillors that sit on both Councils were asked if they received a free Broadband connection from Hambleton. The nine Councillors were emailed, not once, but twice, to their official email addresses at both Councils, asking the question.
Four responses were received.
Two Councillors said they are not in receipt of a Broadband connection paid for by HDC. Two Councillors were evasive and would not answer the question. The other five Councillors have not responded to either of the emails.
The Members Allowance Scheme at Hambleton District Council is quite explicit regarding Allowances paid by other Authorities:
“Where a Member is also a member of another Authority that Member shall not receive Allowances under this Scheme if he/she is receiving an Allowance from the other Authority in respect of the same duties.”
So who are the seven shy Councillors who won’t answer a perfectly polite if inquisitive email about the perks they receive from their local Council?
Would any of you Councillors care to set the record straight and let us know if you are in receipt of a free Broadband connection from Hambleton District Council?
Prior to the publication of this article, Hambleton District Council Head of Corporate Services Martyn Richards was emailed three times and offered the opportunity to provide a statement for publication. He has acknowledged the first two emails. He has not offered any further comment. Perhaps his Council’s duty to transparency has slipped his mind.
Article first posted to Real Whitby on June 5 2012.