Plea over councillor expenses as claims top £1m

TAXPAYERS across the region have paid more than £1m for councillors' expenses as vast differences in the cost of the annual bills emerged between local authorities.

SEE AN INTERESTING CHART OF COUNCILLOR EXPENSES HERE Note how Bradford & Kirklees Council's are amongst the highest in the region and the obvious drop in claims from Barnsley Council as Labour loose more seats.

Campaigners have now called for greater transparency to ensure the public's cash is being used efficiently and effectively.

A Yorkshire Post investigation has revealed nearly £1.2m of taxpayers' money has been used to cover the cost of members' expenses for the region's 22 councils during the last two financial years.

Vast differences have emerged with two councils topping the £100,000 mark, while other local authorities have cost the taxpayer less than £1,000 in annual claims.

While most authorities have posted a summary of members' expenses on their websites, campaigners from The Taxpayers' Alliance have called for a more detailed analysis to be readily available to the public.

Taxpayers' Alliance campaigns director Mark Wallace claimed a similar picture had emerged nationally. "Of course, councillors should be reimbursed for legitimate and reasonable expenses essential to representing their voters.

"All details of councillors' allowances should be published receipt by receipt, so that the public can see exactly where their money is going."

A survey conducted by the Yorkshire Post of the expense accounts of the region's councillors has analysed claims made for travel, hotel accommodation, subsistence, internet and telephone costs plus child care.

The region's highest annual claim was made by Coun John Berry, who represents Brigg and Wolds on North Lincolnshire Council. He claimed £8,286 for travel and subsistence during 2007/08, and £5,034 in the last financial year.

Among the other claims was more than £8,000 for car mileage by North Yorkshire County Council member Helen Swiers, while former Leeds Council leader Mark Harris claimed in excess of £320 to visit London for Romanian Independence Day.

Rotherham councillor Mahroof Hussain had a flight and hotel in Los Angeles paid for when he attended the British-American Project's annual conference in November 2008. He also claimed £228 for a hotel room and breakfast when he went to an anti-drugs conference in Romania.

REST HERE

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