‘Double Dipping’ – An Update by Tim Thorne

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‘Double Dipping’ – An Update by Tim Thorne

‘Double Dipping’ – An Update by Tim Thorne

You may remember an article I penned about Councillors elected to both Scarborough Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council who were claiming Broadband allowances from both Authorities. I was hoping the Councillors themselves would sort this mess out, but alas they all kept quiet, ignored the emails from concerned members of the public and sat on their hands instead of taking action to sort it out. Only a complaint to both Authorities forced them to act which is a great shame. Well, the complaint was accepted and it seems both Authorities are in the process of taking a complaint about this abuse through their new standards procedures. Not only am I interested in the outcome but it seems one section of the national media will be watching with great interest too.

There is also an update on the Tom Fox / Ros Fox Broadband complaint. You may also remember that the current Council Leader at Scarborough Borough Council and his wife were both claiming the SBC Broadband allowance when only one of them needed to. SBC said they could only provide a fixed sum of money for Broadband expenses, so they were duty bound to pay both Councillors the full cost despite the list of yearly expenses contradicting that. An inside source at SBC told me that Councillor Fox has actually repaid those expenses as he too thought the standards committee decision was silly. So I FOI’d SBC asking for confirmation that money had been returned to the public purse. SBC flatly refuse to answer that question as evidenced here and this has been passed to the ICO to investigate further.

After highlighting the problem with Broadband expenses at Scarborough Borough Council in 2010/11 it seems there has been further troughing in 2011/12. If you take a look at this PDF you will see that Conservative Councillors Derek and Lynne Bastimann have both claimed Broadband Allowance for a home they share. Why are they both claiming the allowance when only one needs to?

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9 Comments

  1. Tim Thorne August 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm - Reply

    From: Tim Thorne
    To: cllr.derek.bastiman@scarborough.gov.uk ; Cllr.Lynn.Bastiman@scarborough.gov.uk
    Sent: Friday, August 03, 2012 12:56 PM
    Subject: Internet Allowance 2011/12

    Hello,

    The latest figures are out regarding members expenses for 2011/12. I
    notice from the figures that both of you claimed the full Internet
    Allowance during that financial year for a property you share. That
    doesn’t seem at all fair to the public purse. Now that you know about
    this will one of you be paying the allowance back in full?

    Regards,
    Tim Thorne

    http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=12242
    http://www.scarborough.gov.uk/pdf/cllrs%20allowances%202011-12.pdf

  2. Nigel Ward August 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: Moira Beighton
    Cc: Carole Dunn ; Weighell, Cllr.John ; Richard FLINTON
    Sent: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 11:16 PM
    Subject: Re: *** Addendum *** – Complaint to NYCC Standards Committee – NYCC/SC/15-24 [4]

    Ms Moira BEIGHTON – Senior Lawyer (Governance) -NYCC

    IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

    Moira,

    Thank you for your email.

    Dealing with your points in the order that you have presented them:

    1) I can now inform you that I have just very recently received a response from SBC regarding their part in my complaints. the Decision Notice indicates that they appear intent upon proceeding with their own investigation in parallel with NYCC. This would appear to duplicate the entire process for no good reason. In my view, it is an unnecessary waste of the public purse.

    2) Whilst I accept as plausible your explanation for the delay in processing my complaint, I cannot see that it was necessary to simply ignore it – a word of explanation and apology would not have been burdensome.

    3) I am gratified to note that my ‘double-dipping’ complaint against Councillor Jane Kenyon is now, at last, being addressed. I find it hard to imagine that the Statutory Duties of the Monitoring Officer do not require her to monitor the allowances/expenses accepted by elected members. In the absence of the Protocol governing the conduct of the Monitoring Officer (which I have requested) I am unable to form a definitive view. I therefore offer you, under protest, an accessible insight into the evidence supporting my complaint by directing you to the website of the NYPA:

    http://www.nypa.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=5961&p=0

    and

    http://www.nypa.gov.uk/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=7592&p=0

    where you will readily confirm that Cllr Kenyon received from the NYPA (in respect of IT, etc) £847.22 and £712.15 respectively in 2009/2010 and 2010/11. The 2011/12 figures are apparently not yet available. I do not know why. I am sure you could elicit that information with a single email. Please oblige me by doing so. The Standards Committee will require that information. Thank you.

    The second element of the ‘double-dipping’, as you are already aware, resides within the Basic Allowance (inclusive of IT, etc – as has already been conceded by the Standards Committee in connection with my complaints against the ten SBC/NYCC ‘double-dippers’) payments received by Councillor Jane Kenyon for each of those same three years – 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 – from NYCC. These figures are already at your disposal.

    It therefore follows that Councillor Jane Kenyon, according to the evidence of the Public Record, has received payments from two separate sources for the express purpose of underwriting the costs of her single outlay in respect of IT, etc.

    4) With regard to your query as to the grounds of my complaint against Councillor Jane Kenyon, it is my contention that the Councillor’s declarations in her Register of Interests indicate that there is a discrepancy between those declarations with respect to both Whitby Regatta (an informal voluntary not-for-profit community organisation and Whitby Regatta Limited (a Limited Company – limited by guarantee) and the date of incorporation of the latter, as evidenced by Companies House. Amongst these discrepancies is the fact the Councillor Jane Kenyon appears to have failed to correctly declare her interest in each of these bodies and, further, that she did not declare her interest in the latter within the requisite time period of 28 days. The Chief Executive of the NYPA Mr Jeremy HOLDERNESS has already confirmed that such indeed was the case – though , for transparency, I should point out that I take issue with certain statements provided by Jeremy in his Decision Notice – with the following decision:

    “You are correct that councillor Kenyon should have amended her Declaration of Interest, within 28 days, to reflect the change in legal status of the organization and her status as a Director.”

    As in the case of my ‘double-dipping’ complaints, the facts of the matter are evident within the Public Record. They are not a matter of opinion or subject to interpretation. Councillor Jane Kenyon has manifestly breached the Code of Conduct in respect of the compulsion to declare interests in a timely fashion. You have given me to believe that complaints are now to be addressed under the terms laid down in the Localism Act 2011. My information is that non-declaration is a criminal offence. It is my hope and expectation that NYCC will fulfil its duty to report suspicion of crime to the appropriate authority, which in this case may not be the North Yorkshire Police – for the very obvious reason that there is an obvious conflict of interests.

    I reserve the right, as always, to publish any/all of my correspondence with the Council into the public domain, at my sole prerogative.

    In the interests of transparency, I inform you now that all of my correspondence is shared freely with the press and audio-visual media, as well as with the investigative agents informing the Lord Maginnis corruption enquiry.

    I look forward to your timely confirmation that the matters I have raised, in the public interest, are now finally to be addressed in an open and accountable way.

    Yours, with very kind regards,

    Nigel

  3. Tim Thorne August 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    From: Hilary Jones
    To: Tim Thorne
    Sent: Thu Aug 09 13:26:52 2012
    Subject: Internet Allowance 2011/12

    Dear Mr Thorne

    I write in response to your email sent to Councillors Derek and Lynn Bastiman on 6 August querying their annual telecommunications and internet allowance (Internet Allowance) of £255 claimed for 2011/12. Please note Cllr Lynn Bastiman was elected to the Council in May 2011 and therefore has not claimed the full annual allowance.

    I was somewhat surprised by your query as I understand that you have previously made the same query to the Council: initially via a complaint that was fully investigated by Standards Committee in June 2011 – re the payment of this allowance to two Councillors who are members of the same household, and via a Freedom of Information Request in March 2012.

    However for the sake of total clarity I will reiterate the outcome of the complaint to Standards Committee and the information provided to you in your Freedom of Information request. As you are aware this information is in the public domain on the Council’s website however for your convenience I have attached the related documents.

    The Standards Committee decision made clear that the telecommunications and internet allowance was a fixed allowance provided to Council Elected Members under the Members Allowance Scheme towards the any costs they incur. This allowance was determined on the advice of the Independent Remuneration Panel. I would also add that Cllr Lynn Bastiman has always made use of her own equipment and has not requested provision of a laptop or printer from the Council. As stated the Decision Notice and FOI response attached are available on the Council website.

    Further to this issue you may be aware that as part of the Council’s move towards delivering budget savings by implementing modern, more efficient ways of working, we are implementing wherever possible paperless working. The provision of Ipads to replace laptops and printers previously used by Elected Members removes a huge print and post cost burden to the Council. This has also enabled a review of Allowances for Telecommunications and Internet Access. In light of this, at its meeting on 23 February 2012, Council agreed that with the provision of Ipads to Members it would no longer be necessary to provide a fixed allowance under the Members Allowance Scheme for telecommunications and internet connection. From May 2012 this allowance has ceased for Council Elected Members. Should Members incur additional and/or sundry costs for telecommunications or internet connection (should the Ipad internet connection be inadequate) then these expenses will be reimbursed via the usual protocols for Councillors claiming expenses.

    I feel this answers your query sent to Councillors Derek and Lynn Bastiman in full.

    Regards
    Hilary Jones
    Strategic Director

    Debbie Crossley
    PA to the Strategic Directors
    Scarborough Borough Council

  4. Tim Thorne August 9, 2012 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    From: Tim Thorne.
    To: Hilary.Jones@scarborough.gov.uk
    Sent: Thu, 09 Aug 2012 17:07:30
    Subject: Re: Internet Allowance 2011/12.

    Dear Miss Jones,

    Many thanks for your e-mail. As we both know there is no overriding reason that a Councillor must take the Internet allowance payment from Scarborough Borough Council. In fact, over the years, many Councillors have actually opted not to take the allowance for a variety of reasons and that fact is fully detailed on your web site. Why couldn’t one of the Bastimans have opted not to take allowance? I really don’t understand why there is a compelling reason that Scarborough Borough Council must give two payments to two Councillors who share one household. Would it be possible to explain this to me because I think I am missing the crux of SBCs argument.

    It is good you are aware of the FOI request regarding the Internet Allowance. Perhaps you can encourage someone to answer that FOI request with the information I require? All I want to know is if either Cllr. Tom Fox or former-Cllr. Ros Fox has repaid some of all of that money. If they have repaid nothing then please impart that information so I can close the FOI request.

    Regards,
    Tim Thorne

  5. Tim Thorne August 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm - Reply

    Those Mercury-like messengers of the Gods are quick on the case. I’m impressed they are only a few months late:

    http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/community/local-focus/councillors-to-be-investigated-over-internet-expenses-claim-1-4837225

  6. Nigel Ward August 19, 2012 at 7:55 am - Reply

    Following the SN’s attempts to distance Jane Kenyon from the proven complaints against 10 NYCC/SBC Councillors for ‘double-dipping’ their Broadband allowances, I attempted to draw readers attention to the fact that Jane Kenyon was also a ‘double-dipper’, though at NYCC and NYPA.

    SN’s refusal to allow postings critical of Jane Kenyon is pure censorship.

    For the unblinkered (and especially Jane Honningsvaag), here are the details.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: Nigel
    To: Moira Beighton
    Cc: FOI ; LISA DIXON ; Richard FLINTON ; Weighell, Cllr.John ; Carole Dunn
    Sent: Thursday, August 16, 2012 11:08 PM
    Subject: Further to: *** Addendum *** – Complaint to NYCC Standards Committee – NYCC/SC/15-24 [5]

    Ms Moira BEIGHTON – Senior Lawyer (Governance) – NYCC

    IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST

    Moira,

    I am disappointed to have heard nothing from you in response to my email of 31st July 2012.

    I am waiting to hear from your Investigating Officer. Please have that person contact me before close-of-play on Friday 17th August 2012.

    You will now take note, please, of the following information.in relation two my double-Council ‘double-dipping’ complaints:

    The following text is an extract from the Minutes of an NYCC meeting on 17th December 2008. It provides conclusive evidence that FIVE of the elected member against whom I have complained were present. I have marked their names in bold red type for ease of recognition.

    NORTH YORKSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
    Minutes of the meeting of the County Council held at County Hall, Northallerton on 17 December 2008.
    PRESENT:-

    County Councillor Peter Sowray in the Chair.
    County Councillors County Councillors Michelle Andrew, Val Arnold, Andrew Backhouse, Arthur Barker, Keith Barnes, William F Barton OBE, Bernard Bateman MBE, David Billing, John Blackburn, John Blackie, Eric Broadbent, Elizabeth Casling, Gordon Charlton, Geoffrey Cullern, Gareth Dadd, Mrs M-A de Courcey-Bayley, John Fletcher, John Fort BEM, Graham Gatman, Ron Haigh, Tony Hall, David Heather, Michael Heseltine, Robert Heseltine, Bill Hoult, Margaret Hulme, David Ireton, David Jeffels, Jane Kenyon, Michael Knaggs, Andrew Lee, Carl Les, David Lloyd-Williams, Steve Macaré, Patricia Marsburg, Brian Marshall, J W Marshall, Shelagh Marshall, Chris Metcalfe, Leslie Parkes, Stuart Parsons, Caroline Patmore, Chris Pearson, Paul Richardson, John Savage, Caroline Seymour, Steve Shaw-Wright, Brian Simpson

    And what was approved at that meeting?

    “That the scheme of allowances (attached at Appendix B to the report) and list of approved duties (attached at Appendix C to the report) be approved for 2009/10.”

    I trust that the Standards Committee will recognise that Council Minutes are not susceptible to challenge in law. It is therefore the case that the five named Councillors – Andrew Backhouse, David Billings, David Jeffels, Brian Simpson, John Blackburn – may not even plead the (albeit invalid) mitigation of ignorance. Ergo, they are hereby shown to have wittingly ‘double-dipped’. Case closed.

    This is fraudulent.

    By the same token, it is also clear that Cllr Jane Kenyon (whose name I have highlighted in green bold type, above) was present, too, and therefore also aware of the terms of the new Basic Allowance package and the option to ‘renunciate’ all or any part of it (including that increment from which Councillors were to finance their Broadband facilities). Similarly, case closed.

    Clearly, this also constitutes ‘double-dipping’ in respect of her NYPA It/etc allowance.

    Please confirm for me that the criminal offence of these thefts has now been reported to the North Yorkshire Police for investigation and prosecution.

    Yours, with kind regards,

    Nigel

  7. Tim Thorne August 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    http://www.cllrbsimpson.co.uk/notice-board.php
    Personal Statement

    A recent news story regarding internet allowances for Council members has caused both confusion and given a false impression of how things stand.

    I strongly refute any suggestion that I have acted either improperly or fraudulently in my role as both a member of the County Council or the Borough Council.

    I would like to make it clear that I have never physically claimed any internet expenses from either Scarborough Borough Council or North Yorkshire County Council.

    Both Councils paid an internet allowance automatically to their members be it part of basic allowance or a separate allowance.

    I have NOT received any allowance that I am not entitled to. I have spoken to both the County Council and Borough respective legal services and I am confident of a positive outcome to recent concerns raised by a member of the public.

    Cllr Brian Simpson

  8. Sarraceniac August 28, 2012 at 9:42 am - Reply

    Surely any councillor can just say to one of the authorities, ‘I am being paid for this by the other authority so I don’t require it’? If somebody is paid for a service out of illegitimately gained money and, when charged with receiving, pleads, ‘I didn’t ask for it’ is this a defence? I know this is not quite the same thing in that it has been shown only to be immoral not necessarily illegal (still being looked into) but surely Councillor Simpson is putting his head somewhere where he can’t, or won’t, see anything except what he talks. Hope he explains his point of view better next May 2nd. It’s not long.

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