What happened while Cllr Denise Roberts was Chair of MFRA’s Audit Sub-Committee?

What happened while Cllr Denise Roberts was Chair of MFRA’s Audit Sub-Committee?

                                     

Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair, Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee) (27th November 2014)
Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair, MFRA (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) Audit Sub-Committee at a previous meeting of the MFRA)

The author of this is the appellant in a First-Tier Tribunal (Information Rights) case involving Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

There have been serious corporate governance allegations raised about how MFRS (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service) has been managed and led during the period when Wirral Council Councillor Denise Roberts has chaired the MFRA (Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority) Audit Sub-Committee.

MFRS’s press office was approached to provide a press officer for today’s public meeting of its Audit Sub-Committee. However that request for a press officer was refused. A reply received from a senior manager who intervened in our request stated that a press officer is not able to attend this and indeed future public meetings due to “other responsibilities”.

Ultimately it is up to you dear reader to try and understand the reasons why such a decision would be taken.

Clearly Wirral Cllr Denise Roberts (Chair of MFRA’s Audit Sub-Committee) is not entirely to blame as reports to the Audit Sub-Committee she chairs (including to today’s meeting) have been either inaccurate or misleading (or indeed both at the same time) and indeed her time on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority comes to an end in a week.

Instead, Cllr Brian Kenny and Cllr Chris Meaden will replace Cllr Denise Roberts and former Labour Cllr Steve Niblock as two of Labour’s representatives from Wirral Council on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. Both Conservative Cllr Lesley Rennie and Labour’s Cllr Jean Stapleton remain.

It remains to be seen whether a future Chair of the Audit Sub-Committee continues with Cllr Denise Roberts’ approach and what happens next.

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Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

Which Wirral Council councillor made 38 taxi journeys in 6 months?

                                                       

Eye Cab taxi invoice Wirral Council councillors
Eye Cab taxi invoice Wirral Council councillors

Yesterday Wirral Council responded to my FOI request for the more recent invoices from Eye Cab Limited for taxi journeys by councillors.

These don’t include taxi journeys where councillors have paid for the taxi themselves and then claimed back the cost.

Sadly, due to a lot of missing pages (curiously always the ones with councillors’ names on them), plus a number of pages scanned at such low quality making them very difficult to read, I’ve requested an internal review.

There was an £85 taxi journey listed on page 5. By the price list published on my blog here it comes to a taxi journey of around 67 and a half miles.

Sadly the second page of the invoice that invoice from May 2015 that would state who undertook this unusually long journey is not supplied. The invoice itself is of such low quality it’s hard to read how far this journey was. However if you’re going on a journey that far why not take the train instead?

In fact if the journey was by a councillor then Wirral Council’s constitution states (members means councillors):

8. Travel and Subsistence

Travel Costs

8.1 Travel costs incurred by members in performing “approved duties” as specified in Schedule 2 to this Scheme shall be reimbursed at the prevailing public transport rates, provided that the use of taxis or members’ private motor vehicles may be permitted where public transport is either not available, or the journey by public transport would be likely to result in unreasonable delay.”

Sadly as Wirral Council didn’t respond properly to this FOI request it’s impossible to tell whether a councillor took this journey or not!

However over the 6 months of invoices where names were supplied, here are how many taxi journeys were undertaken by each councillor at the taxpayers’ expense. For shared journeys I’ve counted it as one journey for each councillor sharing the taxi:

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (38)
Cllr Steve Niblock (23)
Cllr Bill Davies (13)
Cllr Irene Williams (5)
Cllr Pat Williams (2)
Cllr Kathy Hodson (1)
Cllr Denise Roberts (1)
Cllr Phil Davies (1)

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How much did taxis cost for councillors at Wirral Council through a contract with Eye Cab Limited between September 2014 and March 2015?

How much did taxis cost for councillors at Wirral Council through a contract with Eye Cab Limited between September 2014 and March 2015?

How much did taxis cost for councillors at Wirral Council through a contract with Eye Cab Limited between September 2014 and March 2015?

                                                           

Eye Cab Ltd taxi invoice Wirral Council October 2014
Eye Cab Ltd taxi invoice Wirral Council October 2014

During the 2014/15 audit I requested the contract between Wirral Council and Eye Cab Limited for LOT 4 (councillors taxis) called the Passenger Transport Contract. This is what the contract states about the invoices (pages 22 to 23):

2.3.8 Invoicing

Invoices should be submitted once a month for all journeys undertaken by Councillors for official business only. There will be no payment in advance for journeys. The invoice should contain the following information

  • Journey collection and arrival destinations

  • Date and time of journey

  • Name of the Councillor ordering the journey
Invoices will be paid at the price agreed between Wirral Council and the Contractor at the time of award of contract. If an overcharge is identified on an invoice a credit note will be required from the Contractor or a deduction for the amount owed clearly identified on the following invoice.

Invoices should be forwarded to:-

Carl Thompson
Legal and Member Services
Wallasey Town Hall
Brighton Street
CH44 8ED

However when I made a Freedom of Information request for the invoices for September 2014, October 2014, November 2014, December 2014, January 2015, February 2015 and March 2015, this was the response I got.

The invoices supplied don’t contain the times of journeys, or the journey collection or arrival destinations!

Wirral Council have also tried to black things out on these invoices (incompetently I might add with an image mask) because they class them as personal data.

All the underlying images of the invoices are still there as they’re using an image mask (that is the file contains two images that of the underlying invoice and over the top a further image used as a mask to black certain bits out).

Let’s start with the junior officer name at Wirral Council they blacked out which is Thompson, Carl S. [carlthompson@wirral.gov.uk].

Here’s the mobile phone number from this invoice: 0798 944 6652. I might point out that Eye Cab Limited publish this mobile phone number on their Facebook group page anyway.

Below are the totals by councillor for each invoice. The below are just journeys through this contract. It is possible for councillors to pay for taxi journeys themselves, then claim the money back from Wirral Council, in which case those figures would not be included below.

Invoice dated 27th September 2014 (LOT4/2)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £5.20
Ron Abbey £43.40
Steve Niblock £9.40
Moira McLaughlin £42.80
Irene Williams £8.00

Invoice dated 4th October 2014 (LOT4/2)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £56.60
Moira McLaughlin £16.00
Bill Davies £6.60

Invoice dated 4th October 2014 (LOT4/3)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £34.00
Moira McLaughlin £31.00

Invoice dated 11th October 2014 (LOT4/5)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £26.80
Ron Abbey £71.60
Bill Davies £6.60

Invoice dated 18th October 2014 (LOT4/6)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £26.80
Pat Hackett £5.20
Ron Abbey £51.00

Invoice dated 24th October 2014 (LOT4/7)

Councillor Total Amount

Ron Abbey £76.00
Moira McLaughlin £31.50
Bill Davies £6.60
Muspratt £10.80
Pat Hackett £5.20

Invoice dated 31st October 2014 (LOT4/8)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £5.20
Moira McLaughlin £18.80
Ron Abbey £71.00 *for two journeys includes waiting time of 5 minutes (£1) and 10 minutes (£2)

Invoice dated 8th November 2014 (LOT4/9)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett £15.60
Muspratt £12.20
Moira McLaughlin £33.40
Bill Davies £6.60
Niblock/Davies £10.80
Irene Williams £8.00
Ron Abbey £51.00

Invoice dated 15th November 2014 (LOT4/10)

Councillor Total Amount

Irene Williams £17.40
Pat Hackett £19.40
Steve Niblock £28.20
Bill Davies (down on invoice as W J Davies) £13.20
Moira McLaughlin £9.40

Invoice dated 22nd November 2014 (LOT4/11)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as S. Niblock) £28.20
Moira McLaughlin £40.40
Bill Davies (down on invoice as W J Davies) £6.60
Irene Williams (down on invoice as I. Williams) £8.00
Muspratt (down on invoice as C. Muspratt) £12.20
Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P. Hackett) £11.80

Invoice dated 29th November 2014 (LOT4/12)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £18.80

Invoice dated 6th December 2014 (LOT4/13)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £37.60

Invoice dated 13th December 2014 (LOT4/14)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £49.80
Moira McLaughlin (down on invoice as Moira McGlaughlin) £18.80
Bill Davies £13.20
Muspratt (down on invoice as Clr Muspratt) £12.20
Taxi Share £12.20

Invoice dated 20th December 2014 (LOT4/15)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock (down on invoice as Steve Nibkock) £59.20
Muspratt (down on invoice as Clr Muspratt) £12.20
Denise Realey (down on invoice as Denise Reaty) £8.00
Pat Hackett £11.80
Moira McLaughlin (down on invoice as Moira McGlaughlin) £10.80
Irene Williams £8.00

Invoice dated 10th January 2015 (LOT4/16)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P. Hackett) £11.80
Moira McLaughlin £79.40
Bill Davies £16.00

Invoice dated 17th January 2015 (LOT4/17)

Councillor Total Amount

Pat Hackett (down on invoice as P.Hackett) £9.40
Moira McLaughlin £28.20

Invoice dated 24th January 2015 (LOT4/18)

Councillor Total Amount

Irene Williams £8.00
Bill Davies £6.60
Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Niblock/Davies £12.20

Invoice dated 31st January 2015 (LOT4/19)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock £10.80
Bill Davies £6.60
Moira McLaughlin £28.20

Invoice dated 7th February 2015 (LOT4/20)

Councillor Total Amount

Steve Niblock £31.00
Moira McLaughlin £73.80
Williams/Muspratt £12.20
Irene Williams £9.40

Invoice dated 14th February 2015 (LOT4/21)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Steve Niblock £9.40

Invoice dated 21st February 2015 (LOT4/22)

Councillor Total Amount

Bill Davies £19.80
Irene Williams £8.00
Moira McLaughlin £9.40
Davies/McLaughlin £10.80

Invoice dated 28th February 2015 (LOT4/23)>

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £18.80
Bill Davies £18.40

Invoice dated 7th March 2015 (LOT4/24)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £59.20

Invoice dated 21st March 2015 (LOT4/25)

Councillor Total Amount

Moira McLaughlin £28.20
Bill Davies £13.20
Irene Williams £8.00
Niblock/Davies £12.20


Grand totals (September 2014 to March 2015)

Cllr Pat Hackett £5.20 + £5.20 + £5.20 + £5.20 + £15.60 + £19.40 + £11.80 + £11.80 = £79.40

Cllr Ron Abbey £43.40 + £56.60 + £34.00 + £71.60 + £51.00 + £76.00 + £71.00 + £51.00 = £454.60

Cllr Steve Niblock (figures for Niblock/Davies not included here) £9.40 + £28.20 + £28.20 + £37.60 + £49.80 + £59.20 + £10.80 + £31.00 + £9.40 = £263.60

Cllr Moira McLaughlin (figures for Davies/McLaughlin not included here) £42.80 + £16.00 + £31.00 + £26.80 + £26.80 + £31.50 + £18.80 + £33.40 + £9.40 + £40.40 + £18.80 + £9.40 + £18.80 + £10.80 + £79.40 + £28.20 + £9.40 + £28.20 + £73.80 + £9.40 + £9.40 + £18.80 + £59.20 + £28.20 = £678.70

Cllr Irene Williams £8.00 + £8.00 + £17.40 + £8.00 + £8.00 + £8.00 + £9.40 + £8.00 + £8.00 = £82.80

Cllr Bill Davies £6.60 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £13.20 + £6.60 + £13.20 + £16.00 + £6.60 + £6.60 + £19.80 + £18.40 + £13.20 = £140.00

Cllr Muspratt (does not include Williams/Muspratt) £10.80 + £12.20 + £12.20 + £12.20 + £12.20 = £59.60

Cllrs Niblock/Davies (note not included in Cllr Steve Niblock’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Davies) £10.80 + £12.20 = £23.00

Taxi Share £12.20

Cllr Denise Realey £8.00

Cllrs Williams/Muspratt (note not included in Cllr Muspratt’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Williams) £12.20

Cllrs Davies/McLaughlin (note not included in Cllr McLaughlin’s amounts above and there are three councillors with the surname Davies) £10.80

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10 more pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, taxis and parking

10 more pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, taxis and parking

10 more pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, taxis and parking

                                                

This continues from 10 pages of MFRA councillors’ expense claims for car mileage, tolls, parking and taxis.

Below are ten A4 pages of expense claims submitted by councillors on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority for the 2014/15 financial year. It’s pages ten to twenty of eighty-nine pages and each thumbnail below should link to a more high-definition (and therefore readable) image for each page.

The councillors these pages are for are Cllr Leslie T Byrom, Cllr Steve Niblock, Cllr Ted Grannell, Cllr Peter Brennan, Cllr Ray Halpin, Cllr Roy Gladden and Cllr Sharon Sullivan.

HQ stand for headquarters, Perf & Scrut means Performance and Scrutiny Committee, Comm Safety and Prot means Community Safety and Protection Committee and TDA refers to Training and Development Academy.

Interestingly the claim by Cllr Sharon Sullivan isn’t signed by her, but someone else on her behalf.

Cllr Ted Grannell taxi expenses December 2014 January 2015 thumbnail
Cllr Ted Grannell taxi expenses December 2014 January 2015 thumbnail
Cllr Steve Niblock taxi expenses July 2014 October 2014 December 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Steve Niblock taxi expenses July 2014 October 2014 December 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Steve Niblock taxi expenses December 2014 January 2015 thumbnail
Cllr Steve Niblock taxi expenses December 2014 January 2015 thumbnail
Cllr Leslie Byrom car mileage claim parking taxi October 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Leslie Byrom car mileage claim parking taxi October 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Peter Brennan car mileage claim November 2014 to February 2015 page 1 of 2 thumbnail
Cllr Peter Brennan car mileage claim November 2014 to February 2015 page 1 of 2 thumbnail
Cllr Peter Brennan car mileage claim page 2 of 2 thumbnail
Cllr Peter Brennan car mileage claim page 2 of 2 thumbnail
Cllr Ray Halpin car mileage expenses November 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Ray Halpin car mileage expenses November 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Roy Gladden car mileage expenses parking September October 2014 thumbnail
Cllr Roy Gladden car mileage expenses parking September October 2014 thumbnail
Councillor Steve Niblock expenses claim taxi journeys January February 2015 thumbnail
Councillor Steve Niblock expenses claim taxi journeys January February 2015 thumbnail
Councillor Sharon Sullivan taxi expense February 2015 thumbnail
Councillor Sharon Sullivan taxi expense February 2015 thumbnail

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49 pages of secret expenses on fruit cake, stays at the Hilton, first class travel & taxis for councillors

49 pages of secret expenses on fruit cake, stays at the Hilton, first class travel & taxis for councillors

49 pages of secret expenses on fruit cake, stays at the Hilton, first class travel & taxis for councillors

                                                

At the end of this piece are 49 pages of invoices paid directly by Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority. If a councillor pays for a meal or a taxi fare but claims the money back, it’s included in the annual totals for each councillor. You can view the table of annual totals for each councillor that was on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority on the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority website.

The pages of expenses below that cover stays in hotels, train fares and meals (which would usually be in the travel and subsistence or overnight categories of expenditure of that table) aren’t included. Below is what Regulation 15(3) of the Local Authorities (Members’ Allowances) (England) Regulations 2003 states what should be included. Recipient refers to a recipient of a payment under the allowances scheme.

15. Records of Allowances
….
(3) As soon as reasonably practicable after the end of a year to which the scheme relates, an authority shall make arrangements for the publication within the authority’s area of the total sum paid by it in the year under the scheme to each recipient in respect of each of the following—

(a) basic allowance;
(b) special responsibility allowance;
(c) dependants’ carers’ allowance;
(d) travelling and subsistence allowance; and
(e) co-optees’ allowance.

 

The 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 this.

In that letter Janet Henshaw (Monitoring Officer for Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service) writing on behalf of the Wirral councillors wrote:

“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. We were invoiced monthly in the last year for both Officers and Members without differentiation. Thus it would have been a wholly unreasonable use of scare resources to break this down each month between the two groups and then each and every individual.”
 

CFO on one of the receipts refers to the Chief Fire Officer Dan Stephens. DCFO refers to the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Phil Garrigan. As some of the names of the councillors below will be unfamiliar to readers I include a key below. The key has the name of the councillor, political party, which local authority they represent (or represented as Cllr Ted Grannell and Cllr Tony Newman are no longer on the Fire Authority) and whether they hold the position of Chair or Vice-Chair on Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority.

Cllr Dave Hanratty, Labour, Liverpool, Chair
Cllr Linda Maloney, Labour, St Helens, Vice-Chair
Cllr Leslie T Byrom, Labour, Sefton, Vice-Chair
Cllr Ted Grannell (down on invoice as Ted Grenell), Labour, Knowsley
Cllr Tony Newman, Labour, Knowsley
Cllr Steve Niblock, Labour, Wirral

Continue reading “49 pages of secret expenses on fruit cake, stays at the Hilton, first class travel & taxis for councillors”