Is 20p okay to claim on expenses?

31 03 2011

I understand that City Hall could impose a minimum expense limit on senior staff and politicians after it was revealed some have been claiming for items costing as little as 20 pence.

Several assembly members and GLA employees have questioned whether it is right that people on often very high salaries should be able to make such small claims.

Measures to be considered could include a ban on claims below a level of around £5 or if those already claiming for a publicly funded season ticket or travelcard can legitimately ask for additional travel expenses.

Documents released by the GLA show that between November 2010 and January 2011 travel claims included one for 20 pence made by Assistant Director of Health and Communities, Helen Keenan.

Another travel claim was made for 80 pence by the Mayor’s Arts Advisor Munira Mirza, who earns £82,000 a year.

In the last year several senior staff and politicians have claimed for single oyster journeys, and members of the GLA’s Standards Committee have asked officers to go away and review the current procedures and guidance on claim levels.

The current expenses system at City Hall has no low-limit and any changes would have to be agreed by the whole London Assembly.

Group Performance Manager at the GLA, Tom Middleton said: “One of the issues that has come up is claiming for very small amounts and the costs that are incurred through the system of processing it.

“There have been examples where senior staff are claiming quite minor amounts on occasion.”

When asked if a de minimis” level of £5 was worth considering, he said: That could be a route to go down, yes.

“I know that the rest of the staff, middle management included, just do not claim. If we have a couple of pounds here or there we just don’t have minor expenses. It is a fact.

“Other organisations do have guidance on what is appropriate.”

Liberal Democrat leader at City Hall, Caroline Pidgeon, has backed the decision to consider whether it was right to use taxpayers’ money to pay such small claims.

“I think there is a point here when it comes to staff who are paid a lot and whether this is something members could also employ. I personally wouldn’t claim,” she said.

But others are concerned that people could be left out-of-pocket or would claim more because of a minimum expense claim level.

Deputy Mayor of London for Communities, Richard Barnes said: “We can’t just add anything under £5 people must just swallow it themselves.

“We don’t know what every individual’s financial circumstances are. They may be maintaining three or four different families and be behind on their mortgage payments. We can’t make those kind of assumptions about why some reclaim and some don’t. But £1.50 for somebody may be a huge amount. Salary levels do not tell the whole story.

“I would oppose any de minimis level. You have to remember this is out-of-pocket expenses.”

Conservative assembly member Victoria Borwick added: “If we said the minimum was £5, people would genuinely say I’d rather have five pennies rather than one. I would be concerned you would up the unintended cost.”


IPSA ‘luxury’ spending uncovered

7 03 2011

Haven’t really mentioned that I write pretty regularly for PoliticsHome now. Well I do and am really enjoying it.

Glad to see that my story on IPSA furniture spending  here has been picked up by my friends at the Standard here and the Telegraph here

Some Keith Vaz-style spending on furniture by the expenses-police really has had me and the office giggling. Hope you will too.