Incredible: Cllr Jones answers that councillors are “trusted” to exercise their judgement over when to use taxis
On Monday evening I asked Councillor Adrian Jones about councillor’s use of taxis during the public question time section of Council meeting. Below is a transcript of the answer he gave to my question (apart from one small section that is unclear) along with a transcript of my supplementary question and answer.
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JOHN BRACE: Thanks, as you said my question is to Councillor Jones.
Each year Wirral Council is required to publish annual totals of what councillors have claimed in travel expenses. Due to contracts with various taxi firms invoicing Wirral Council directly thousands of pounds of expenses weren’t included in the list for 2013/14.
The Members Allowance Scheme states that the use of taxis (or councillors’ own cars) for attending meetings is only permitted where public transport is either not available, or the journey by public transport would be likely to result in unreasonable delay.
For the taxi journeys made by councillors that were not included in the annual published lists for 2013/14 and those made since can you confirm:
(a) each journey was taken where there is no available public transport (or taking public transport would lead to unreasonable delay) and if not will councillors involved be refunding Wirral Council and
(b) what changes will be made so that the expenses for such journeys made in 2014/15 will be included next time the annual lists are published? Thank you.
CLLR ADRIAN JONES (CABINET MEMBER FOR SUPPORT SERVICES): Thank you for your question John.
The Council’s Members Allowance Scheme is detailed in part six of the constitution and paragraph 8(a) deals with travel costs but I’m sure you already know that.
The roles and personal circumstances of Members varies widely as do demands and expectations of their constituents and this has to be followed by considering which journey for Wirral that Members do.
Some Members for various reasons have no reason to use taxis in order to carry out some of their duties. It’s the responsibility of those Members concerned to determine when to use a taxi and in doing so Members are trusted to make a judgement that is consistent with the Members Allowances Scheme.
Members in exercising that judgement will take account of a number of factors such as the public transport arrangements available at the time in question, including the frequency of service, the length of time between connections and the consequent time it’ll take to get to and from their destination.
This is also balanced against other factors including personal and family circumstances, other conflicting commitments including a Member’s employment, other engagements and appointments to be attended that day and also for safety issues, health and safety issues that may arise at a particular time such as late night travel and …
The Council has negotiated competitive prices and entered into contracts with a local taxi company to provide transport for Members in accordance with the Members Allowances Scheme. The taxi company submits its invoices and the details of the Members that used the taxis each month directly to the Council for payment. The advantage of this arrangement is that the cost of transport by taxis is always at the negotiated rate and is a more efficient way to manage the service.
Now these costs have not been published on that basis previously, however in future the cost of Member’s taxi journeys undertaken pertinent to these taxi contracts will be published on the Council’s website as soon as practicable after the end of each financial year.
I will just add John that I’ve no doubt in targeting your question to the use of taxis you may be thought to have missed the big picture as the use of private cars is also charged to the public purse and that’s a point that will go over on both sides of the room.
Various councillors: Hear, hear.
Mayor: Do we, are we allowing the press a supplementary? You want a supplementary? OK.
JOHN BRACE: Thank you for that answer Councillor Jones.
The information about taxi journeys made by some councillors was provided to me on the 23rd January 2015 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Since that time I have made four further FOI requests that have not been answered at all within the statutory twenty days, there are a further six that have not been responded to and only this morning I received an email from the Information Commissioners Office that said they would be drafting a decision notice about the Council’s failure to respond to an internal review request that was made on the 12th of November last year.
Will he apologise tonight for the way that this Council is ignoring my requests made under the Freedom of Information legislation and send me a written answer before the elections in May as to what is happening to improve Wirral Council’s performance when requests for information are made using the Freedom of Information Act legislation?
CLLR ADRIAN JONES: I’ll ask for a report as on why your question wasn’t answered and I’ll get back to you soon.
JOHN BRACE: Thank you.
In answer to Councillor Jones’ point about use of councillor’s own cars to attend meetings being part of the bigger picture I refer him (and readers) to the fact I published all these (for 2013/14) last year:
Here are some links:
Expense claim forms for Councillor David Elderton (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Phil Davies (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor George Davies (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Mike Hornby (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Andrew Hodson (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Sylvia Hodrien 2013
Expense claim forms for Councillor John Hale (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Ann McLachlan 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Brian Kenny (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Stuart Kelly (Wirral Council) 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Cherry Povall, JP 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Moira McLaughlin 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Tony Smith 2013 to 2014 reveal mysterious Lyndale School meeting in February 2013
Expense claim forms for Councillor Harry Smith 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor John Salter 2013 to 2014
Expense claim forms for Councillor Pat Williams 2013 to 2014
Expense claim form for Councillor Phil Davies (Wirral Council) 2013 (continued) £241.10 claimed in 1 week!
Expense claim forms for Councillor George Davies (Wirral Council) 2013 (continued)
The 6 “missing” pages of Cllr Tony Smith’s expenses claims shed more light on Lyndale School matters
Expense claim form for Councillor David Elderton (Wirral Council) October 2013
11 more pages of Wirral Council councillors’ mileage claims (Elderton, Hornby, Kelly, Povall, Salter, H Smith and P Williams)
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