INCREDIBLE: £2,877.35 spent by Wirral Council last year in previously hidden payments on taxis for Labour councillors!
Hackney carriage by ed g2s • talk – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Every year, a legal requirement on Wirral Council means that they have to publish for each councillor how much was spent on travelling and subsistence allowances for each councillor.
The list published for 2013/14 is on Wirral Council’s website.
Last year I made a Freedom of Information Act request for a breakdown of payments made to three taxi firms (A.P. Contract Hire Ltd, Wallasey Cars Limited and Wirral Satellite Cars Limited) for taxi journeys made by councillors paid for by Wirral Council.
Here is the breakdown for each councillor, taxi firm and total amount for that financial year.
AP Contract Hire
Cllr Irene Williams £11.20
Cllr Phil Davies (Plus 3 Staff) £54.00
Cllr Steve Niblock £51.00
AP Contract Hire Total £116.20
Cllr Bill Davies £25.00
former Cllr Brian Kenny £5.00
Cllr Christina Muspratt £10.10
Cllr Irene Williams £46.20
Cllr Joe Walsh £50.60
Cllr Moira McLaughlin £197.10
Cllr Pat Hackett £700.00
Cllr Steve Niblock £442.90
Cllr Tony Norbury £13.00
Wallasey Cars Total £1,489.90
Wirral Satellite Cars
Cllr Bill Davies £106.65
Cllr Chris Meaden £6.70
Cllr Christina Muspratt £159.40
Cllr Denise Realey £20.10
Cllr Harry Smith £25.20
Cllr Irene Williams £117.70
Cllr Joe Walsh £184.55
Cllr Moira McLaughlin £558.20
Cllr Phil Brightmore £7.30
Cllr Steve Foulkes £17.50
Cllr Steve Niblock £16.00
Cllr Tony Norbury £51.95
Wirral Satellite Cars Total £1,271.25
Grand Total £2,877.35
An amount of £10.20 for an Anne Davis for Wallasey Cars was also included in the response to my request, but as there is no councillor called Anne Davis, I have not included this amount in the figures above.
One thing to be noted is that all the councillors in this list are from the same party (Labour Party). Let’s take one councillor’s taxi expenses at random and compare them to the published list for 2013/14.
Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s taxi rides came to £197.10 with Wallasey Cars and £558.20 with Wirral Satellite Cars (total £755.30).
However next to Cllr Moira McLaughlin’s name on the published list of expenses are two entries. £40.10 for “expenses” and £167.29 for subsistence. This comes to a total of £207.39 that comprises the items detailed in the blog post expense claim forms for Councillor Moira McLaughlin 2013 to 2014. The taxi rides with Wallasey Cars and Wirral Satellite cars don’t appear at all despite regulation 15 requiring that Wirral Council publish the total annual sum paid by it for each councillor’s travel and subsistence allowance.
Taking another councillor from the list above, £700 was spent on taxi rides for Cllr Pat Hackett with Wallasey Cars. Yet when you read the published list for 2013/14 his expenses are down as £0 and travel expenses £0.
I would suspect that if I went through the list of councillors above I’d find that none of these taxi rides appear on the list that’s published each year. The response to my FOI request contains the line “The use of taxis’, and the associated costs, has been in connection with legitimate Council business.”
This all reminds me of that quote from Wirral Council’s former Chief Executive Graham Burgess of “We need to spend less on ourselves and more on services” and I wonder what the £2,877.35 spent on taxi journeys for councillors could have been spent on instead.
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