Essex County Council must come clean on Lord Hanningfield’s expenses

November 30, 2012 10:13 AM
Originally published by Chelmsford Liberal Democrats

Essex County Council logoEssex County Council is being challenged to give a full explanation as to how former Conservative Leader, Lord Hanningfield, was allowed to claim £287,000 in expenses between 2005 and 2010 to fund his extravagant lifestyle. The Liberal Democrat Opposition on the Council has put down a motion for the 11 December Council meeting.

As Conservative Leader, Lord Hanningfield wined and dined at the most expensive restaurants, hotels and bars and visited 24 countries, all at the expense of Essex council taxpayers.

Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Councillor Mike Mackrory, said:

"Having gone through all 57 pages of these claims, I am frankly astonished that he was allowed to continue claiming for six years, when clearly the vast majority of claims had no justification whatsoever. This is despite me raising my concerns with the Chief Executive in 2007, when I received anonymous information that Finance Department staff were concerned about highly dubious expenses claims.

"I was told then it would be dealt with, but he continued claiming for a further three years before resigning, but only because of his House of Lords expenses. The council taxpayers of Essex need answers and want their money back."

Audit shows failure of internal procedures at Essex County Council

In 2008 an internal audit raised concerns (noted on p.3 of the link below):-

credit card expenditure was not, in all instances, subject to any documented independent scrutiny/authorisation and that a significant proportion of the expenditure was not adequately supported.

In September 2010 the independent Audit Commission reported their findings of an audit of councillor expenses and other governance issues. The report concluded (noted on p.4 of the link below):-

'My review and the Internal Audit reviews indicated significant governance failings at the Council. These include:

  • the absence of basic systems, controls and procedures, including for proper scrutiny of claims;
  • it was difficult to demonstrate that some expenditure incurred was appropriate, or that it was properly and necessarily incurred on legitimate Council business;
  • a failure to publish members' allowances and expenses promptly after the year end, which is a statutory requirement.'

Reports

The seven page report from the Council's Monitoring Officer Terry Osborne, published 13 November 2012, is on Essex County Council's website as a PDF here. It includes a large number of links to other reports including, at the very end, Lord Hanningfield's expense claims.

There is a three page PDF of Frequently Asked Questions on ECC's website here.

Statement from the Leader of the Council Peter Martin (with the above two links at the end) here.