Auditor uncovers Nottinghams costly claims mistake

19 Dec 02
Nottingham City Council accidentally paid its members nearly £280,000 in unlawful allowances and expenses in two years, its district auditor has revealed.

20 December 2002

John Gregory has issued a public interest notice after a long-running inquiry into payments made to councillors in the late 1990s. It shows that in 1997/98 illegal payments totalling £69,700 were made, out of a total of £235,000. The following year they shot up to £207,700 out of £372,000.

But Gregory's report clears councillors of wrongdoing. 'The vast majority of these unlawful payments did not arise from overclaiming by members,' he said.

He found that all except £400 of the illegal payments were caused by 'misunderstanding or misapplication' of the regulations governing the allowances and expenses that can be claimed by councillors.

Members were given free bus and car park passes when they should have paid for tickets and claimed back the actual costs incurred.

In addition, members were allowed to make expenses claims without producing receipts, and for duties not covered by the legislation.

Gregory's report says Nottingham has taken action to correct the problems since they were first identified. He added: 'The council now needs to ensure that these recent changes are consolidated into its standing guidance and are well understood by all members.'

Nottingham's leader Brian Parbutt said: 'We are not talking here about councillors deliberately claiming more than they knew they were entitled to. This council wrongly interpreted and applied the complex regulations concerning allowances in some instances, as I suspect other councils may have done.'


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