Sunday 30 June 2013

Gas guzzlers

It's been a while since this blog took a look at the expenses claims of Carmarthenshire's county councillors, and judging from some of the recent figures the council is still churning out some very suspect data. Has Tom Theophilus (Independent) really clocked up £1,127.70 in travel expenses since April 2013?

In a large number of cases, copies of the expense forms which are supposed to accompany the figures are also missing.

The figures for councillor salaries are interesting. Carmarthenshire has 74 councillors, and collectively they cost us £759,000 in basic salary in 2012-13. Nothing very surprising about that, perhaps, but senior salaries (i.e. members of the Executive Board, chairs of committees, etc.) cost us an eye watering £431,000 on top of that.

2012-13 was an unusual year, partly because of the council elections and partly because there were very few meetings for four of the months covered by the period. Despite that, travel expenses for the year totalled £43,361, which was slightly up on the previous year (£42,300).

A trawl through the database shows huge variations in claims, from zero to more than £2,500, with ten councillors (13% of the total) accounting for 36% of total claims.

Here are the top five:

1.       Jane Tremlett (Ind)
2.       Tom Theophilus (Ind)
3.       Colin Evans (Lab)
4.       Anthony Jones (Lab)
5.       Ivor Jackson (Ind)

That other Independent stalwart, Dai 'Trelech' Thomas, was not far behind at £1,082.

Together Labour and the Independents accounted for 8 out of the 10 top claimers.


Anonymous said...

Jane Tremlett and Colin Evans are both exec board members - does that have anything to do with it. I imagine that social care in particular requires a lot of travel.

Anthony Jones is the chairman of planning which probably requires a lot of travel as well.

Can you tell us whether this has anything to do with it?

Cneifiwr said...

Possibly, although there are other Exec. Board members with responsibility for e.g. schools and regeneration who claims much less.

As far as I know, being chair of planning does not entail any travel over and above what is required of other members of the planning committee, and transport is laid on for them when they make a site visit.

All a bit of a mystery, in other words.

Anonymous said...

All Councillors submit expense form otherwise they can not claim I suspect unless you conspiracy theorists out there that they haver not been scanned on to the system yet, If you entitled to travel expense why should you not claim it

Cneifiwr said...

The CCC website has an expenses database where you can see claims. The claim forms are scanned, but very often they are absent - it's not a case of "yet", but of huge gaps.

Neither is this conspiracy theory. It is just that some councillors habitually submit much higher claims than others, and if they have been councillors for decades, as is the case with some, the sums of money involved are very considerable.

That is not to suggest that their claims are incorrect, but sometimes there appears to be no rhyme or reason why Councillor X should be claiming much more than Councillor Y.

Anonymous said...

Cneifiwr - I know you to be a fairly intelligent man but are you aware that Tom Theophilus actually lives the furtherest way from Carmarthen and travels 60 miles round trip and is on Licensing & Planning which meet more often than all the other Scrutiny committees so fair play to the gent or to you just side with Jacqui T who is against Tom because he beat her in the last election

Cneifiwr said...

Thanks for the warm words Anon @22.36. Yes, I am aware that he is on the planning and licensing committees.

You may have spotted that this is simply a list of the top 5 claimants.

But as you have chosen to highlight Cllr Theophilus, I am also aware of his voting record.

Some readers may not be aware that Cllr Theophilus is now in his 80s as well, and only slightly younger than my Dad.

I love my Dad dearly, but would not want to see him deciding planning and licensing applications, even though he is mentally fit.

Is that age-ist? Possibly, but how many other public offices can you think of these days which are held by people born before WW2?

Anonymous said...

Anon @22.36 - Are you suggesting that since April, Mr Theophilus made this 30 mile round trip 5 days a week? I suggest you do the maths before you cast any further aspertions!

Anonymous said...

cneifiwr- your ageist comments are disgusting

i shall not be reading this blog anymore

as a 70 year old I consider myself mentally fit and if i wanted to stand for election I would be proud of myself to do so.

Cneifiwr said...

Well, this has obviously hit a few nerves.

The chair clearly said at one point during the last meeting that there was nobody in the gallery. Perhaps he was making it up, then.

A very high proportion of councillors, and not just in Carmarthenshire, are 65+. It would be much healthier if we had a more representative spread of ages - and sexes. Nothing wrong with having councillors aged over 80, if people want to vote for them, but I know several serving councillors who have commented that some of the old boys are hopelessly at sea when confronted with the complexities of planning.

As for Cllr Theophilus's achievement in travelling so far since April, I can only stress (as I wrote) that the figures are those published by the Council.

caebrwyn said...

Cneifiwr is not being ageist. Planning and Licensing both include quasi-judicial decision making. Even judges have to retire at 70, I presume there is very good reason for that.

At one recent planning meeting, Cllr Theophilus had to be reminded that 'I knew his grandfather' was not a material planning consideration.

As for Cllr Theophilus' expenses, as Cneifiwr says, these are the figures published by the council. The published data is nothing short of a mess and has been for a couple of years - if the information is wrong, and I mean if, then the council is responsible for disseminating misleading information.

Yes, we all know many a sharp minded 80 year old and I hope to be one myself one day. Sadly there's no evidence whatsoever that any currently sit in the Chamber at County Hall.

As for the election, the majority in Cilycwm did not vote for Cllr Theophilus.

Anonymous said...

In response to 1/7 15.18-But Mrs T did not win in Cilycwn and until the next election or a by election TT is the County Councillor for Cilycwm so live with it.!!
I am sure he does not claim for unnecessary journeys and he in entitled to the reimbursement

Cneifiwr said...

Well Anon @9.38, I am sure you are right, so let's hope nobody asks the Wales Audit Office to check things out.

It's probably worth reminding ourselves that just because someone is elected does not mean that they should not be criticised. Even in Clilycwm there may be people who feel less than happy with their councillor over the way he acted in the case of Ysgol Pantycelyn, his support for the developers at Penybanc and his recent vote against the TAN20 motion. And that's just for starters.

Anonymous said...

Before we make unfounded allegations, why don't you put your money winery your mouth is and ask Welsh Audit office yourself.

I believe the system is that Councllors sign for being present. in meetings and then receive the travel expenses only for the meetings which they have physically attended and signed the register for in the actual meeting.

If anybody has an accusation to make about the abuse of expenses, then it should be properly founded rather than hinted at in this awful way. He may be a political foe, but he has the right to have an accusation put properly and processed duly. It's not right to make unfounded allegations.

Cneifiwr said...

Hang on a minute, accusations? I have merely reported the facts as published on the council's website.

There seems to be some extreme sensitivity here.

The public has a right to know this information and to make up its own mind whether it is being best served.

Anonymous said...

Reckon anon 2/7/13 18:08 is close friend of Cllr in question????

Thanks you for keeping us informed Cneifiwr, if it wasn't for this information, links to websites etc, it would take forever to find the info.

I reckon the satirical version of the expenses may be less provocative to some!???

If the council prints it, it s a FACT anon, get over yourself!


Anonymous said...

TT had the right to vote against an ill founded proposal re TAN 20 . The county has to wait for WG to produce a replacement TAN 20 and there is no point setting up a separate system or pushing WG any more than they have been pushed
Plaid were stirring for the sake of stirring instead of working together in the All PARTY CENSUS GROUP

Cneifiwr said...

Anon @23.43 I think that TT and the other Independents were well aware that that this was an opportunity for the council to tell the WG what it thought before the new TAN20 is finalised. Carwyn Jones had asked just a short time before for interested parties to give their views, hadn't he?

By voting the way they did, the Independents and their Labour allies ensured that the Council will not play a part in shaping the policy.

The proposals outlined by Alun Lenny were not ill founded, but have the support of just about everyone who understands the issue - including the council's own head of planning.

As for TT's expertise, let's remember that not very long ago he had to be reminded that planning applications can't be decided on the basis of who you know.