Mid Devon councillors' mileage claims increase
TRAVEL expenses paid to Mid Devon district councillors in the last financial year went up by more than £4,000 on the previous 12 months, figures obtained by the Gazette show.
All 35 councillors who served during the financial year of 2011-12 made a claim for travel expenses during the period, costing the council £19,452.78. In 2010-11, the figure was £15,355.20.
Only two of the county's district councils – East Devon and South Hams – paid out more.
Councillors with the three authorities covering a larger geographic area – West Devon Borough Council, North Devon Council and Torridge District Council – all claimed less in travel expenses than their Mid Devon counterparts did.
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The figures were obtained from all district councils in the area using the Freedom of Information Act.
Mid Devon councillors can claim for reimbursement of travel expenses incurred in carrying out council duties, such as attendance at district and parish meetings, civic receptions and the inspection of council premises, in addition to their annual allowance of £4,500.
The rate is worked out according to the mileage covered in their vehicle.
The lowest claim submitted to Mid Devon for the year ending 2012 was made by Queenie Broom for £16.80, while the highest, £2,659.55, was made by council leader Peter Hare-Scott.
The rates of reimbursement for travel expenses were amended in 2011 as part of the reviewed Council Members' Allowance Scheme, which outlines when a councillor may make a claim.
This brought the rates in line with most of the other councils in the county, with the exception of the city authorities in Plymouth and Exeter, and Torbay Council, whose rates remain lower.
Mid Devon councillors can claim a basic rate of 45p a mile for the first 10,000 miles of travel covered in a financial year. A lower rate of 25p is implemented for any further travel above 10,000 miles in that year.
A flat rate of 5p a mile is also paid to the driver for each passenger, up to a maximum of four, who is transported on an approved journey.
In contrast, councillors in Exeter are paid a flat rate of 23p a mile, a figure which has stayed the same since 2008.
Mid Devon member services manager Simon Coombs said: "We reimburse councillors at the HMRC rate of 45p a mile.
"Of course the cost of reimbursing councillors' mileage in Mid Devon is higher than the figures for Exeter, Torbay and Plymouth because Mid Devon is a large rural area, but it is about average for the seven district councils in Devon.
"Without knowing the full details of how many councillors each district has, how many meetings they attend, and the rates they claim, it's not possible to comment any further on the comparisons with other districts."
Cllr Hare-Scott commutes from Crediton to Tiverton most days, and said his relatively high claim was because of his leadership role.
He also pointed out that those on the planning committee would have to travel to sites which are the subject of applications.
In an effort to improve their green credentials, Mid Devon has also introduced an incentive to councillors to leave the car at home when attending official council business.
Mr Coombs explained: "We are also one of the few councils to have introduced cycling mileage rates to encourage councillors to cut down on car usage."
Councillors who choose to cycle instead of drive their cars can put in a claim for 20p per mile cycled.
The amount claimed for mileage in by Mid Devon democratic services in 2011-12:
Holloway Linda 334.55
Lucas Melvyn 557.80
Eginton Clive 834.75
Snow Terry 529.60
Hughes Thomas 752.55
Andrews Eileen 264.10
Bainbridge Heather 718.00
Bourne Philip 134.80
Broom Queenie 16.80
Deed Robert 2163.75
Downes John 211.45
Hare-Scott Peter 2659.55
Squire John 922.55
Stanley Raymond 1687.55
Wilson Kevin 474.72
Brandon Diane 77.40
Squires Margaret 1420.13
Harvey Martin 167.20
Williams Maurice 142.00
Coren Derek 921.95
Evans Robert 270.45
Binks Martin 338.65
Hull Brenda 773.00
Heal Peter 682.05
Pugsley David 156.80
Woollatt Nicola 158.45
Griffiths Alan 232.08
Radford Raymond 155.70
Lee Michael 310.50
Nation David 58.00
Way Nicholas 46.80
Williams Paul 127.80
Berry Edgar 196.20
Daw William 96.00
Rosamond Frank 859.10