Oh dear, did I blow the whistle on local politicians' expenses? I'm ever so sorry. To be fair, I kind of knew that saying “Hang on, I think you should have a look at this” was the equivalent of painting a bright red target on my back, but then I also felt that the good people out there would see the backlash for what it was.
And so it begins…
Today, as is the practice at Lancashire County Council, I was informed that a Freedom of Information request has come in about me. Here it is –
I wish to make a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act concerning Councillor Sam Chapman. I would prefer to receive this information by email but if that is not possible then by post is acceptable too.
1. Please send me all the details you hold of all expenses claims made by Cllr Chapman (whether paid or not) since his election. I am particularly interested to know the date, amount and reason of each claim and whether it was paid and when by the Council. Please include a copy of all receipt and invoices for all claims.
2. Please send me all details you hold of all other payments made to Cllr Chapman since his election. I expect this will include, but will not be limited to, his allowances as a councillor and committee chairman.
3. Please send me all the details you hold of any complaints made against Cllr Chapman both since his election or pertaining to his election campaign and received by any officer or member of the Council, or anyone else if the information is held by the Council.
The info doesn't say who it's from, but I have offered to trade copies of all my receipts if they will tell me who I should send them to.
Now, I know from bitter experience just how frustrating it is to have to wait for the answer to such a request, and as the deadline for this one is 18 January, and as I suspect the officers might then just direct the person asking to the website where they publish most of this stuff anyway, and so don't have to tell anyone separately, I thought I would do what I could to save them the agony of waiting and stop it from spoiling their Christmas.
So here's what I can tell you in terms of answers since I was first elected in 2009:-
1. Expenses claims.
2012-13 None so far.
That's a total of nothing, by the way, or 'nowt', seeing as it's Lancashire.
Sorry, that's a bit dull isn't it? Clearly I have spent money on my Council-related travel, mainly on mileage to County Hall and back again, and also on food when I was there, and the rules do allow Councillors a privilege not extended to members of staff, whereby travel to 'work' and some grub to make the trip worthwhile can be charged to the taxpayer, but I didn't take advantage of that one.
Now, that's kind of meaningless with nothing to compare it to, but County Councillors all do different jobs, so it's kind of difficult to get a fair comparison. Hmmm. I've decided that as I chair Lancashire County Council's Audit and Governance committee that maybe I should just see how my predecessor on what was the Audit Committee has done over the same period.
That person was on the Wyre Borough Council and Lancashire Police Authority as well, so please bear with me with the maths. The Police Authority's website isn't reliably accessible since the Authority was abolished, but you can find the expenses here so I hope I've added this right – In the last three years his “expenses” (food, mileage, travel, parking, etc) were:-
2009-10 LCC £1,336.60 + Wyre £190.23 + LPA £2,489.04 = Total of £4,015.87
2010-11 LCC £2,824.79 + Wyre £220 + LPA £1,135.29 = Total of £4,180.08
2011-12 LCC £1,778.20 + Wyre £65.10 + LPA £2,192.10 = Total of £4,035.40
2012-13 – Don't know yet, and may never know the Lancashire Police Authority figures.
That's a total of £12,231.35 in expenses in 3 years, which is, er, £12,231.35 more than me.
Wow! Looks like somebody has a season ticket on the gravy train!
Who is this mystery councillor?
2. All other payments, including allowances as a councillor and committee chairman.
For being a County Councillor and Chair of the Audit Committee I have received the grand total of
2009-10 £10,254.61 (a part-year amount as I was elected in June)
2012-13 Haven't done the sums
So for three years that is a grand total of £36,322.65
Though I should take your guidance here. When I was elected I took a reduction in hours from my employer to allow me to do my duties as a Councillor. Now, the unions had negotiated a discretion for the Director to still pay me my full salary while on my duties as a Councillor, but I wrote to him and asked him just to deduct it from my pay, seeing as I thought it was wrong for the taxpayer to pay me for the same time twice. Should I deduct that from these allowances – it was a hefty sum, though I never worked out how much?
What about our mystery Councillor – how did he do?
2009-10 LCC £13,500.34 + Wyre £10,464.62 + LPA £14,721 = Total of £38,685.96
2010-11 LCC £16,851.17 + Wyre £10,570.29 + LPA £15,103.92 = Total of £42,525.48
2011-12 LCC £12,357.11 + Wyre £5,872 + LPA £15,103.92 = Total of £33,333.03
2012-13 Info not available
So our mystery councillor pulled in £114,544.47 in allowances in 3 years, which is very impressive, as his party aren't even in power. Now that's a professional politician!
All told, on my sums, with expenses, he grossed over £126,000 in income over a 3 year period by virtue of getting elected a couple of times in Fleetwood.
Yes, our mystery councillor is none other than Clive Grunshaw, Lancashire's new £85,000 per year Police and Crime Commissioner, who incidentally hasn't given up his Wyre Borough Council or Lancashire County Council jobs or allowances just yet. Well, he has to make ends meet.
Oh, there's an idea – I hadn't thought of asking about complaints. I'll have to remember that one.
For me, none I know of, but there may be some no-one has told me about and, now that I'm a target, I guess I can expect that to change.
For Clive Grunshaw – I hope to have told you about the main ones, but who knows?
Anyway, I hope all that has taken a weight off the mind of the enquirer. Perhaps, if they like the suspense, they should ask about what percentage of the council meetings I'm expected at that I actually turn up to. I can't wait to do that comparison.
Don't rush to thank me for my relatively parsimonious approach – instead, thank this guy. He is Malcolm Pritchard, an Independent County Councillor from Hyndburn who doesn't just not claim expenses, but doesn't even claim the basic allowance for doing the job. So over 3 years he has cost nothing at all. I can't afford to do that, but I salute Malcolm's sense of public service.
Had such fun reading this! need to catch this Timelord before he escapes into another dimension or uses string theory to explain expense overlap
Sam, with due respect, your position is bollocks. In effect, what you’re saying is that unless you can afford to pay your own expenses, you shouldn’t be a councillor. That would severely limit the pool of people who could contemplate delivering a role that already requires many hundreds of hours of unpaid work on behalf of their community. Sure, there are some bad eggs but you do yourself no favours with a position that would make involvement in local government a non-starter for many. It comes across as ill thought out and silly.
David, I’ve not said that at all. It might be worth a re-read.
It comes acorss as being clearly implied, Sam.
I have referenced what I can’t afford, and I recognise that everyone’s situation is different. I do not criticise anyone for claiming what they are lawfully entitled to, including properly incurred and receipted expenses. You may appreciate that those who claim no expenses in a day think it is a bit rich when people leap to the defence of those who claim to the maximum, repeatedly, in the same day, which I think invites the sort of comparison I have given above.
I am not surprised Sam as many people use “The system” for many dubious reasons and it is they who have to live with their conscience if they have one – Immediately I took up the cudgel about what was going on in LIncolnshire over the PCC, a complaint was made about my role as an Appeals Tribunal member, with so many copies and details in it, it must have taken them days. Even though I had nothing to do with crime or anything relating to it, and had no intention of compromising myself that way the allegation was made that as I was supporting a particular candidate, I was too biased to sit on such a thing as an Appeals Tribunal in relation to the Freedom of Information Act. Little did they know I had suspected such action, and had decided to stand down anyway!! – the laugh was on them…….
I strongly believe in the saying “What goes round comes round” and people get their just rewards – Most people are capable of making their own judgements about people, and I have nothing but praise for what you have done-Richard
Sam, Keep the pressure up – you know you have them rattled when they go down this road! Don’t weaken. Best wishes and compliments of the season. Joe T. Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2012 00:30:57 +0000 To: email@example.com
Well done Sam. Keep exposing the hypocrites and worse.
Dear Sam, well done for bringing this to the public’s attention. I probably won’t agree with you on many things (I’m an active Lib Dem) but you are doing a good and important job bringing public servants to account here.
seven weeks left Sam
Tell me, Ruth, why would a Wyre Labour Borough Councillor like yourself take such an interest in the County Council election in my seat in Chorley? How can you have any influence on the result?
Reblogged this on SamChapman.com.
It’s what is expected Sam – some say it’s fair game as it is the “Tit for tat” expected these days in politics – others say it is unacceptable – Me I have always just lived with it for many years and don’t lose sleep over it.
I have always said the Auditors reverse the natural law of justice ie You are guilty to proven innocent -and remember about 20 years ago they burst into my office, commandeered my files, desk and virtually the clothes I stood in – it seemed someone had said I had taken some money. It was cleared up in a few days, the culprit sacked, and eventually I got an apology, which I insisted was put in writing – Now I wouldn’t even bother with that.
You may recall that as soon as I officially supported David Bowles for the PCC post in Lincs I was reported, with a mile of paperwork, and it was stated it had seriously affected my ability to be rational in my work, I was clearly biased, and incapable of separating out things I deat with officially, which were nothing to do with police anyway. I always declared an interest where appropriate and stood down on absolutely anything that was in any way connected at all with LIncolnshire as a county, let alone its politicians. I had the last laugh, as I had anticipated the move, and also knew who was behind it, and believe me they really got their “Come uppance” and indeed still are..
I remember a funny but true story when a trap was laid for a council employee who was suspected of taking money from a contractor, and the information was it was done in a cafe- As the envelope passed hands and they burst up with cameras etc, he was heard to say “Would you like me to put it on “Win” or “Each way” for you Doug”
You are an honest man, with a conscience, and to me, you always do your best in a fair manner – laugh in their face Sam!
I look forward to hearing more about that come-uppance. Feel free to DM or email at Editor@topofthecops.com