Warnings ignored on Hanningfield's huge expense claims from Essex County Council

November 16, 2012 11:17 AM
Originally published by Chelmsford Liberal Democrats

Essex County Council has published the huge expense claims from disgraced former leader Lord Hanningfield with an internal report. As they are hidden away inside its website, we publish the links below.

Lib Dem Cllr Mike Mackrory (now the Leader of the Opposition) raised concerns about the claims with the Chief Executive back in November 2007. Cllr Mackrory has reacted with anger at the sheer scale of the abuse of taxpayers' money.

He said, "We knew there had been excessive claims, but we are shocked at the amounts and the reasons for the claims, as well as the length of time this was allowed to go on.

"I raised my concerns about Lord Hanningfield's activities with the Chief Executive in November 2007, including his expenses claims, and was told these would be fed into the routine governance process.

"Clearly this was not acted on, and he was allowed to continue claiming excessive amounts to fund his extravagant lifestyle for two more years at enormous public expense.

"Questions remain for the Conservative Administration as to why this abuse of Council taxpayers' money was not acted on immediately and allowed to continue."

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.