Suffolk Coastal: Why did council’s expenses bill rise 41%?
16:00 18 April 2014
A Suffolk council has defended a 41% year-on-year rise to its officers’ expenses bill as a consequence of wider cost-cutting measures.
Suffolk Coastal District Council said the £15,639 of taxpayers’ money, which it paid out in expenses over the 2013/14 financial year - a £4,584 rise on the previous year - had been incurred through increased travel required by partnership working.
A spokesman for the authority said that a shared services initiative between Suffolk Coastal and Waveney district councils, “means that officers may need to travel more, and specific projects can add to that total.”
“However, these expenses are far outweighed by the considerable savings now made by the two councils through the creation of a single officer group working across both authorities,” the spokesman added.
“In addition, the councils are continuously looking at ways of minimising travel costs through care share schemes, rail travel and using video conferencing facilities.”
The expenses bill, revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, also identified 2013/14 as being the largest of the previous four years for which data was received.
Of the total bill, which consisted of 174 separate claims, £11,425 was paid under the heading of “public transport” with the rest made up of general expenses. Itemised lists of each expenses request were not available for any of the years.
The largest amount paid to a single employee in 2013/14 was £568, which went to the gateway to home choice co-ordinator. It was the second largest total paid to a single employee over the four year period, behind the £1,100 paid to the East Suffolk partnerships manager in 2011/12.
Councillors, who receive a members’ allowance to cover their various responsibilities were also recorded as having made additional claims for expenses totalling £1,616 in 2013/14. It was the second largest total out of the four years behind the £1,745 paid out in 2011/12.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance, a pressure group campaigning for low taxes, has urged councils to avoid wasteful expenses spending..
Dia Chakravarty, political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “At a time when taxpayers are really feeling the pinch, councils must do better to keep their costs low by keeping expenses down. Just as hard-pressed families are having to shop around to make savings in their budges, so must councils to ensure every expense is absolutely necessity and the possible value for taxpayers’ money . Taxpayers can no longer afford to fund wasteful spending in the public sector.”