Using an often ignored rule Wrexham.com spent time examining the expenses and receipts of some Wrexham Councillors to discover what items were being claimed for.
One Wrexham Councillor claimed 3 miles of travel at 45 pence per mile, entirely in accordance with the rules for Councillors, to attend Remembrance Sunday in the town last November.
Wrexham.com used the uncommonly exercised rules that allow anyone to ‘inspect and make copies of the accounts and all books, deeds, contracts, bills and vouchers and receipts relating thereto’ of the Council for the latest financial year. Expenses information on Councillors is viewable online, however it is just the overall figures with no per-item break down.
In total Wrexham Councillors were awarded salary and allowances amounting to £909,235.46 in the last financial year, with over £7,000 being claimed in expenses.
Wrexham.com requested the expenses forms and associated receipts for all Executive Board members during the last years accounts, April 2014 to April 2015.
Former Wrexham Maelor Borough Council Chief Executive (from 1988 to 1995) and now local Councillor Councillor Robert Dutton OBE was paid a basic wage of £12,166.36, plus a senior salary of £3,255.86. Cllr Dutton claimed £718.65 in travel expenses, and £11.78 in other expenses.
Cllr Dutton, who represents the Erddig ward in Wrexham, stepped down from the Executive Board in May last year, however has returned and is Lead Member for Organisation, Corporate Services and Health & Safety.
On one of Cllr Bob Dutton’s expenses forms along with details of a total 359 miles being claimed, he noted three miles to be reimbursed at 45p per mile. The purpose of visit was detailed as ‘Armistice Parade’, located at ‘Guildhall’.
The form contains the mileometer readings to be filled in on readings taken before and after the trips, so the previous twenty mile trip was studiously excluded.
13 of the 17 entries on the form that covered October and November were for three mile trips to the Guildhall on various business, with no parking charges claimed due to Councillors having access to their own exclusive town centre car park during the week.
Wrexham.com asked Cllr Dutton why he believes it is appropriate to claim mileage expenses to attend the ‘Armistice Parade’ on Remembrance Sunday in Wrexham.
Cllr Bob Dutton said: “It is an official function for the Council and Members are expected to attend in their capacity as Councillors to support the event.
“Councillors and senior officers are entitled to claim mileage allowance for attending official functions.”
Out of the records provided observed by Wrexham.com’s inspection, no other Councillor on the Executive Board during that period appears to have claimed for mileage to attend Remembrance Sunday.
For those wishing to inspect similar documents the month long window to do so comes once a year, so it is likely August 2016 before the opportunity arises again. Wrexham Council did publicise the availability on their website, and it seems from information requested at the same time, via a statutory notice advert costing several hundred pounds.