Expense claim forms for Councillor John Hale (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Carrying on with the series of councillor’s expense claim forms we get to councillors whose surnames begin with H and the first one of those is Councillor John Hale. Councillor John Hale is a Conservative Party councillor for the ward of Hoylake and Meols (that’s the name of one ward not two different wards). He’s been a councillor since 1975 and according to Wirral Council’s website apart from a few months in 1999 has been a councillor for nearly all that time.
He’s one of Wirral Council’s representatives on the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel who earlier this year banned filming at one of their meetings in Birkenhead Town Hall. The Merseyside Police and Crime Panel most recent meeting on September 4th 2014 could be filmed (however we weren’t at it). I will however point out that Councillor John Hale was a member of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel but wasn’t present at the meeting of 24th April 2014 when that filming decision was made by Councillors Frank Prendergast (Everton, Liverpool City Council (Labour)), Peter Brennan (Old Swan, Liverpool City Council (Labour)), Doreen Kerrigan (Linacre, Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council (Labour)) and Moira McLaughlin (Rock Ferry, Metropolitan Borough of Wirral (Labour)).
However in a cunning move the “powers that be” (Knowsley is the host authority for the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel), made sure that future meetings of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel are now held in Huyton (reason given was “cost grounds” at the public meeting I wasn’t allowed to film earlier this year) which when you consider this increases the costs of many councillors’ expenses claims travelling there, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff travel costs etc it would seem to be a rather spurious claim as although Knowsley said they could get their own Council Chamber for “free”, it’ll still form part of the administrative costs I’m sure they’ll claim back from the Home Office.
It seems a common theme that the increased costs of doing things differently are never brought up in a public meeting (which let’s face it in many places are run for the convenience of officers and councillors not the “public” who often aren’t even there) just the supposed “savings”. After all Knowsley officers had a very long briefing (in private) with the four councillors before the meeting started and one can only guess (from what was during the public meeting that they wouldn’t allow to be filmed which is a decision that didn’t even make the official minutes) that the officers persuaded them to hold future public meetings where officers work (therefore Knowsley officers wouldn’t have to travel much to different bits of Merseyside but the many people on the Panel, whether independent members or councillors, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s staff and everyone else going to this meeting would have to travel further) and not holding it at a more central place in Merseyside. I assume it’s Wirral Council paying these travel costs (for its councillors on the Panel) because nobody has ever told me whether these expenses are recharged back to Knowsley (as the host authority).
What however is interesting to note is that Knowsley Council received £53,000 in 2013/14 for the administration costs of the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel and £11,040 for those on it (which is up to £920 per panel member for expenses) from the Home Office.
Maybe Knowsley think the room hire cost for Birkenhead Town Hall is just too extortionate when you consider Knowsley are only receiving a paltry £53,000 from the Home Office!
However peering into the murk of Wirral Council councillor’s expense claims, it’s now unclear whether Councillor John Hale’s expense claim to Wirral Council for travelling to the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel are (or have been) recharged back to the host authority Knowsley or not. Certainly if Knowsley is getting “up to £920 per member for expenses” it would seem terribly unfair for Wirral residents to be footing the bill through both national and local taxes whilst Knowsley gets the money. It’s something I’ll have to ask Wirral Council’s auditor Grant Thornton about though as I’m unsure.
Its predecessor body (before the Police and Crime Commissioner elections in November 2012) the Merseyside Police Authority met in Liverpool City Centre. However from what I remember the new Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy as far as I know decided that the building the Merseyside Police Authority used to meet in wasn’t needed. Public meetings involving the Merseyside Police now happen in a variety of different locations.
Huyton, from a historical perspective is part of Lancashire and we both half wondered if this came about because in Birkenhead Town Hall (whilst waiting for the briefing to finish) we both said in earshot of a Knowsley Borough Council employee that if they had the Merseyside Police and Crime Panel as far away as Huyton that we probably wouldn’t be able to get to its public meetings.
This is just one aspect of his expenses claim though but if expenses aren’t currently being recharged back to Knowsley it may represent a small saving to Wirral Council if it was. It’s certainly a question I should ask of Wirral Council’s auditors.
Below are Councillor John Hale’s expense claim forms.
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