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Bonkers Blog April 2011

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11 April (Part 3) - ‘ello, ‘ello, ‘ello. What’s goin’ on ‘ere then?

Flackley Ash Hotel, Rye, SussexDo you remember the case I picked up from the Bexleyheath Chronicle on 23 March? The one where ten Bexley cabinet members and nine members of staff took themselves off to Sussex for a few days before Christmas and lo and behold a bill for £2,585 showed up in the council’s accounts. No one has been allowed to know why The Flackley Ash Hotel in Rye was so much better than somewhere closer or even the Civic Centre but let’s accept for a moment it was.

At the last council meeting I heard FC leader O’Neill bragging about how Bexley councillors are so much more careful with money than their counterparts in other boroughs and that they didn’t claim some things they are entitled to. I have no notes of the context and mayor Twankey doesn’t allow recordings but I remember it was said, just not sure about what. Maybe it was a reference to the Christmas jolly, maybe it wasn’t but I have nevertheless been gathering information about how much that little beano cost. You see, the council department that stuck that £2,585 figure on the web now says it didn’t cost that at all because “Cabinet members decided in advance of the meeting that they would meet the full cost of their food and accommodation, which reduced the actual cost to the Council to £1,685.92 for the 19 people who attended”.

There is something funny with the arithmetic there. £2,585 for 19 people is £136 each but reducing the cost by £900 because ten cabinet members decided in advance to pay for themselves can only be squared if we accept that those councillors accepted a much lower standard of accommodation than other guests. I think we can rule that out and there is no getting away from the fact that the hotel sent a bill for £2,585. I did wonder if the hotel billed the cabinet members individually and separately but it can’t be that either because that wouldn’t have reduced the published bill by £900 as stated by the council’s own Payments Manager. So it’s a mystery that doesn’t quite add up. Or does it?

Buried on the council’s website is the fact that cabinet members are entitled to claim ninety pounds subsistence for an overnight stay. £90 each for ten people? It looks like we have found our missing £900. It would appear that the cabinet didn’t decide “that they would meet the full cost of their food and accommodation” but decided not to put in a subsistence claim. Does anyone think they should? When I was at work and needed to be away overnight I was given an allowance which would be enough to cover a room in a cheap hotel. If I was sent on a training course involving an overnight stay and food was provided I didn’t get anything. However it seems that our esteemed cabinet members think it’s the norm to get all their board and lodgings paid for at our expense and get subsistence on top and when they don’t claim the extra ninety quid we are supposed to be grateful. They set themselves up as whiter-than-white and the council sends out a letter saying they paid for the Christmas jolly themselves and I don’t think it is true at all.

I suppose the disreputable crew that runs Bexley council will say I am harassing them again but if they won’t tell the whole story we have to try to work it out for ourselves. As always, if I am wrong then I am ready with the Delete key at any time.


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