Inconsistencies in councillors' expense claims

Mr Jones made this Freedom of Information request to Westminster City Council

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Dear Sir or Madam,

In his recent letter titled "Our duty is to ensure every penny counts" and published in the West End Extra a couple of weeks ago from today's date, Cllr Colin Barrow makes the following statement:-

"Some members including myself have chosen to forego claiming expenses altogether".

Question 1:-

Can Cllr Colin Barrow please explain his above statement in the light of the City Council's reply to FOI request number 3796 and titled "Councillor's expenses broken down by financial year for the last 6 years" where he appears to have claimed in the financial year 2008/9 £10,250 basic expenses and £37,639.55 special expenses.

Question 2:-

In the same letter, Cllr Colin Barrow states the following:-
"A total of just over £870 was claimed last year, an average of just over £14 per councillor".

The City Council's response to FOI number 3796 and titled "Councillor's expenses broken down by financial year for the last 6 years" shows the following data for the financial year 2008/9:-

Cllr Barrow: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed £37,639.55

Cllr Caplan: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed £12,626.99

Cllr Chalkley: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed £10,250.

Can Cllr Barrow please explain how he arrived at a total of just over £870 that was claimed last year, considering that the total expenses claimed by the three above councillors totalled £91,266.54 and that this total does not even cover all 60 Westminster councillors?

Question 3:-

Considering the inconsistencies between Cllr Barrow's recent letter and the City Council's reponse to FOI 3796, it appears that the City Council may have published erroneous and false information in a view to misleading the public, which may be referred to as fraud. Can you please clarify.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Jones

Westminster City Council

Confirmation of Freedom Of Information Request

Thank you for your request for information.

Your request details have now been recorded and will be passed on to the
appropriate Divisional Records Officer for action.

This Freedom Of Information Request was based on the following
information:

Name: Mr Jones
Address: see email address
Email: [FOI #13271 email]
Telephone:
Request Details: In his recent letter titled "Our duty is to ensure every
penny counts" and published in the West End Extra a couple of weeks ago
from today's date, Cllr Colin Barrow makes the following statement:-
"Some members including myself have chosen to forego claiming expenses
altogether".

Question 1:-
Can Cllr Colin Barrow please explain his above statement in the light of
the City Council's reply to FOI request number 3796 and titled
"Councillor's expenses broken down by financial year for the last 6 years"
where he appears to have claimed in the financial year 2008/9 £10,250
basic expenses and £37,639.55 special expenses.

Question 2:-
In the same letter, Cllr Colin Barrow states the following:- "A total of
just over £870 was claimed last year, an average of just over £14 per
councillor". The City Council's response to FOI number 3796 and titled
"Councillor's expenses broken down by financial year for the last 6 years"
shows the following data for the financial year 2008/9:-
Cllr Barrow: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed
£37,639.55
Cllr Caplan: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed
£12,626.99
Cllr Chalkley: Basic expenses claimed £10,250 and special expenses claimed
£10,250.

Can Cllr Barrow please explain how he arrived at a total of just over £870
that was claimed last year, considering that the total expenses claimed by
the three above councillors totalled £91,266.54 and that this total does
not even cover all 60 Westminster councillors?

Question 3:-
Considering the inconsistencies between Cllr Barrow's recent letter and
the City Council's reponse to FOI 3796, it appears that the City Council
may have published erroneous and false information in a view to misleading
the public, which may be referred to as fraud. Can you please clarify.

FOI Reference Number: 3930
Target Completion Date: 13/07/2009

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Baker, Stacey, Westminster City Council

2 Attachments

Dear Mr Jones,

I write regarding your freedom of information request relating to
Councillor expenses and allowances.

In his letter Councillor Colin Barrow was referring to expenses which are
different from allowances.
Freedom of Information request 3796 was interpreted as a request for both
allowances and expenses, which were provided. I apologise if this caused
confusion.

As stated in response to Freedom of Information Request 3796, Councillor
Colin Barrow did not claim any expenses in the last six years, nor did
Councillor Melvyn Caplan. Councillor Chalkley claimed £70.00 for travel
to a conference where he represented the Council in Copenhagen this year
and this will be published with the allowances/expenses for 2009/10 at the
end of April 2010.

For your information, I attach the members allowance scheme and total
allowances and expenses paid for 2008/09. As Councillor Barrow stated a
total of just over £870 was claimed in expenses by Councillors for the
year 2008/09. As you can see from the attached, the exact amount was
£873.30

<<Members Allowance Scheme 2008.doc>> <<allowances 08 09.pdf>>
Kind regards
Stacey

Stacey Baker
Committee & Scrutiny Officer
Westminster City Council
15th Floor
City Hall
64 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QP

Tel. (020)7 641 2341
Fax. (020)7 641 2917
[1]www.westminster.gov.uk

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References

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1. file://www.westminster.gov.uk

Blue left an annotation ()

Freedom of Information request 3796 seems very clear to me, in that expenses were being asked bout. The Councils reply was also equally clear, as it only referred to expenses. In the councils reply to 3796 it contained no mention of allowances, so I don't think there was any confusion.

Dear Ms Baker,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Westminster City Council's handling of my FOI request 'Inconsistencies in councillors' expense claims'.

The response to FOI 3796 covers allowances, not expenses, although the person who put in that FOI request specifically asked for EXPENSES claimed. A revised response is awaited from the council as far as I can see.

In your response to this FOI 3930, you seem to suggest that, as indicated in the council’s response to FOI 3796, Barrow, Melvyn and Caplan did not claim any expenses in the last six years and that Chalkley only claimed £70 during 2009/10. You also state in the same response to FOI 3930 that you have attached a schedule of expenses paid, can you please indicate where it is, as it doesn’t seem to have been attached to your response. Please revert with a copy of this schedule at your earliest convenience.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/in...

Yours sincerely,

Mr Jones

Baker, Stacey, Westminster City Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Jones,

In response to Freedom of Information Request 3796, both allowances and
expenses (of which there were none) for the last six years for Councillors
Barrow, Caplan and Chalkley were given. I apologise if this caused
confusion.

As stated in the responses to both Freedom of Information request 3796 and
Freedom of Information request 3930, no expenses have been claimed by
Councillors Barrow, Caplan or Chalkley in the past six years.

Details of allowances and expenses paid each year are published in
accordance with legislation.

As before, I attach the details of allowances and expenses (which are
contained in the same document) for 2008/09 in response to request 3930.
Councillors are limited to what they can claim expenses for and these are
published in the final column.

<<allowances 08 09.pdf>>

Should you still be dissatisfied you have the right to make a complaint to
the Information Commissioner, pursuant to section 50 of the FOIA. The
contact details are:

Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Telephone: 01625-545-700
[1]www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk

Kind regards
Stacey

Stacey Baker
Committee & Scrutiny Officer
Westminster City Council
15th Floor
City Hall
64 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6QP

Tel. (020)7 641 2341
Fax. (020)7 641 2917
[2]www.westminster.gov.uk

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References

Visible links
1. http://www.informationcommissioner.gov.uk/
2. file://www.westminster.gov.uk

Dear Ms Baker,

The amounts shown in the last column of the document you attached to your response which, as advised by yourself, represent expenses claimed by councillors during the financial year 2008/09, add up to GBP 565.60

Councillor Barrow, in his letter to the West End Extra titled "Our duty is to ensure every penny
counts" advises that "a total of just over £870 was claimed last year, an average of just over £14 per councillor".

Where are the remaining GBP 304.40 in your schedule?

Yours sincerely,

Mr Jones

Baker, Stacey, Westminster City Council

I am currently on annual leave and will return on Monday 13th July.
Your email has been forwarded to Sarah Craddock (2770).

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Dear Ms Baker,

Please ignore my previous message with regards to FOI number 3930, I did not originally see that your document was 3 pages long. Total expenses add up to £873.30 for all 60 councillors, which is just over £870 as stated in Barrow's letter.

I am now satisfied with the information received, thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Jones