The very Warwickshire county councillor responsible for ensuring value for money went before a sub-committee yesterday accused of breaching the members code of conduct after submitting excessive expenses claims (Coventry Telegraph).
Readers of this blog might remember that back in May Coun Martin Heatley (then the county’s environment leader) clocked up more mileage than any other councillor in his 4x4. Now it appears that although the distance from his house to the county council buildings stands at 32 miles, Heatley has claimed for 120 journeys at 52 miles each. What’s more, the majority of his rail journeys have been made on a first class ticket.
It seems as though this councillor has fairly successfully covered his tracks though, citing that he was required to make ‘detours to other meetings’ and that he’d accidentally miscalculated many of the claims by developing a system of aggregating his expenses. How easy it is to miscalculate when it’s other people’s money…
Coun Heatley was ordered to pay back £200 and will now be retrained on the members’ code of conduct and the members’ remuneration scheme. This, and the investigation itself, all adding to the cost for taxpayers.
Essentially, this man has pleaded ignorance. He doesn’t know how to add up, or just not in the right way or he just couldn’t be bothered/deem it important enough to find out the correct method of submitting expenses. So at best this is incompetence, at worst it’s downright abuse of taxpayers’ cash. Maybe we should be asking if this is the sort of individual who can realistically be trusted with the responsibilities of a local politician?
In many, or indeed most, jobs this level of negligence would result in dismissal, but Heatley is only required to pay a token fine and be further trained at the expense of the rest of us. Hardly fearsome consequences for those who are tempted to manipulate what appears to be a fairly pliable system.