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Posted by: John Brace | 5th August 2015

Which Wirral councillor claimed £50 on taxis to and from a public meeting?

Which Wirral councillor claimed £50 on taxis to and from a public meeting?

                                                 

I wrote recently to some of the councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority expressing my concern that there were two expenses systems.

The first involved amounts where councillors had paid out expenses and claimed the money back. The totals for each councillor are published annually and you can see the list for 2014/15 on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s website. This list also includes the extra £8,070 a year that each councillor on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority receives with some receiving more on top of this (such as the Chair receives an extra £16,140 on top of the £8,040). These amounts are in addition to what they each receive for being a councillor from their own councils.

However there is a “secret” expenses system for councillors where Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is invoiced directly. These amounts are not in the list above. My letter expressed the view that such expenses should be included and the reply I received is below.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue service letter about councillor expenses page 1 of 2

Merseyside Fire and Rescue service letter about councillor expenses page 1 of 2

Merseyside Fire and Rescue service letter about councillor expenses page 2 of 2

Merseyside Fire and Rescue service letter about councillor expenses page 2 of 2

As you can see above, the letter refers to the Local Authorities (Members Allowances) (England) Regulation 2003 and Regulation 15 means the financial records of payments to do with councillors have to be open to inspection.

So I recently went to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service’s headquarters in Bridle Road, Bootle and inspected these records. Below are two pages of an invoice for taxi rides by councillors that because Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service are invoiced directly don’t get included in the annual published lists.

Cabfind.com invoice  taxis for councillors page 1 of 2

Cabfind Ltd invoice taxis for councillors page 1 of 2

Cabfind.com invoice  taxis for councillors page 2 of 2

Cabfind Ltd invoice taxis for councillors page 2 of 2

I was astounded to find that a councillor from Wirral (Cllr Steve Niblock who is one of the three Labour councillors from Wirral on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) had taken a taxi from his home to the Fire and Rescue Service headquarters for a public meeting that cost £25 and then a taxi back costing a further £25 (total £50)!

The letter from Janet Henshaw stated “It was not possible to show travel & event bookings made directly by MFRA [Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority] (as opposed to members paying and then claiming back their allowances) due to the fact that this Authority uses an electronic software system to make each booking at the cheapest possible price for both members and officers.” and “MFRA [Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority] does not use any taxi firms“.

Cabfind Limited isn’t a taxi firm, but based on this statement you’d expect that taxi journeys made by councillors using Cabfind Limited would be the same or cheaper than paying for it themselves?

Below is an expense claim submitted by Cllr Steve Niblock for a journey when he has paid the taxi fare himself and claimed it back. The journey to the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service headquarters is from and to the same address as the Cabfind Limited invoice above.

Councillor Steve Niblock expenses claim taxi journeys

Councillor Steve Niblock expenses claim taxi journeys

The taxi journeys above were for £18.60 and £20.00. This is for exactly the same journey that when booked through Cabfind Limited (which Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service claim is “at the cheapest possible price”) was £25.00 and £25.00.

Had Councillor Steve Niblock walked to the nearest train station (Bebington) and got the train to the nearest train station to Merseyside Fire and Rescue headquarters (Aintree) the fare would’ve been only £3.85 each way (total £7.70). However there is nothing in the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority expense rules that states that councillors claiming back travel expenses have to travel by the cheapest route possible (such as by public transport).

Councillor Steve Niblock recently voted to close Upton and West Kirby fire stations and is part of the ruling Labour Group on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority that claims that the Conservative government doesn’t give the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority enough money.

Continues at Which St Helens councillor claimed £36 for 3 salmon dinners and 3 drinks of Coke?.

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Responses

  1. G’day John

    So Clowncillor Scruffy Little Man could have paid the train fare with his tip.

    He is such a credit to his party of deluded wannabe nobodys.

    “The Pretend Friend” comes instantly to mind.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps John I will leave the obvious, tip, joke to you about this big shot DAG.

    John

    In Australia, dag it is often used as an affectionate insult for someone who is, or is perceived to be, unfashionable, lacking self-consciousness about their appearance and/or with poor social skills yet affable and amusing.

    In Clowncillor Scruff and “The Pretend Friend’s” case less the affable and amusing.

    In simple English the poo on the back end of a sheep.

    The whole of Wirral Labor needs crutching.

    • Err councillors don’t have to pay tips to taxi drivers, that’s covered by the expenses system too!

      During the time period we’re talking about Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority’s constitution stated in respect of taxi fares “A sum equal to the actual fare and any reasonable gratuity paid.”

      Now (since my letter) it still covers tips but the constitution on this matter has been changed to:

      Use of Taxis

      The Solicitor to the Authority is delegated to determine if a specific journey by taxi is acceptable by undertaking an assessment of the balance between time saved, alternative available modes of public or private transport, the cost of such alternatives, the practicality, convenience and ease of travel for the individual and the implications for the Authority of otherwise providing transport directly.

      After considering the above issues and having determined that there are clear circumstances – such as there being a case of urgency or where no public transport service is reasonably or directly available – where the use of a taxi is acceptable, the Solicitor to the Authority will authorise such use. Members should claim on the standard form the actual fare incurred and any reasonable gratuity paid. Receipts or other evidence of expenditure should be provided. “

  2. […] photocopies of the expense claims and receipts. As you can see from the receipts above, like Cllr Steve Niblock she also claims for journeys by taxi. Unfortunately the receipts obscure the reasons given on her […]

  3. Just spoken to merseyrail and the fare from bebington station to Aintree station is £4,80 return & brisk 18 minute walk to Bridle road . Perhaps Mr Niblock would consider this form of public transport instead of wasting taxpayers money on taxis. Just a thought.

    • Thanks, I used the price of two single tickets because return tickets sometimes restrict the time you can travel back (eg off peak return) and you can never be quite sure when a public meeting will finish.

      However you’re right, a return is even more economical than two singles.

  4. And yet Merseyside Fire Dept has to close two stations as they can’t afford to run them, maybe the Councillor’s could donate their expenses to the cause!

    • It’s not just the two on the Wirral that Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have decided to close this year. Here is a quick summary of decisions made in the last 12 months by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority:

      October 2nd 2014

      Decision to merge Huyton and Whiston fire stations with a new fire station in Prescot.

      February 26th 2015

      Decision to close Allerton fire station.

      June 30th 2015

      Decision to close West Kirby fire station, apply for planning permission for new station in Saughall Massie and once built close Upton fire station.

  5. […] http://johnbrace.com/2015/08/05/which-wirral-councillor-claimed-50-on-taxis-to-and-from-a-public-meeting/ […]

  6. […] blog post Which Wirral councillor claimed £50 on taxis to and from a public meeting? includes a letter explaining why Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority doesn’t do […]


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