West Sussex County Council stops members double-claiming expenses

County Hall
County Hall

A ‘MISTAKE’ that could have seen county councillors claiming extra expenses has been scrapped.

The members’ allowances at West Sussex were upped last October after a three-year freeze, but the increase in the mileage rate from 53.8p to 59.25p per mile included 2p per mile for parking and toll roads.

Councillors can claim for parking separately.

“There was a risk of members inadvertently double claiming, in that car-parking fees were included in the allowance,” the council’s head of law and governance Tony Kershaw said at the governance committee on Monday.

Liberal Democrat councillor James Walsh said ‘common sense’ had prevailed, as the rate was dropped to 57.25p per mile.

“I’m delighted that everybody has seen fit to support that,” he said.

The committee of January 20 deferred the decision in order to consult with all the political parties.

Cllr Walsh wanted the decision backdated to last October, rather than taking effect from April 1.

“Why April 1? Should it not be backdated to when the mistake was made?”

But Mr Kershaw said: “Since the problem was identified we’ve ensured that there have been no double claims,” he said. “It will take effect from April 1 but in effect there have been no additional claims.”

The committee backed the scheme, but UKIP councillor Graham Jones said he was concerned at the length of time it had taken to correct the error.

“I’m not all that comfortable spending all that time talking about what we get out of it,” he said, adding: “We’re here to do a job.”

The new rate was set based on suggestions from the AA and the RAC, but it will be up to councillors what journeys they claim and whether they wish to claim the increased rate of 57.25p.

Labour leader Brenda Smith said: “I think the point is well made that we can claim as we feel appropriate.”

County council leader Louise Goldsmith said many councillors did not claim for small journeys and new they had to travel to do the best for their constituents.

“I think it’s part of the role that we have for being part of our community,” she said.

She added there was flexibility within the scheme to encourage people who were not retired to stand for election.