Candidates in the Washington East by-election have criticised voters who stayed at home instead of heading to the polling stations.
Labour’s Tony Taylor was voted onto to the seat vacated by disgraced party colleague Neville Padgett in the Sunderland City Council by-election.
But just 23.4 per cent turned out to vote – 2,026 people out of a total electorate of 8,672.
Coun Taylor took home 775 votes, ahead of the runner-up, Conservative Hilary Johnson, at 595 votes.
Conservative Hilary Johnson said:
“We did better than we did last time, we increased our share, we had a four per cent swing. But all I really want to say is that I was so disappointed with the turn-out – 23.4 per cent is pathetic. Less than 400 voted on the day in the polling stations.”
UKIP’s Alistair Baxter, said:
“It was disappointing. I was hoping to be in second.
“It was alarming that so few people even bothered, 75 per cent didn’t do anything. That really questions the validity of the whole process.”
> The consensus seems to be that the voters were pathetic, then.
It probably wouldn’t occur to those candidates that the fault may lie with them, that the majority may think that they are just not worth turning out for.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 13 Dec 2014
Labour candidate Tony Taylor has taken the seat vacated by disgraced party colleague Neville Padgett in Sunderland City Council’s Washington East by-election
Coun Taylor took home 775 votes, ahead of the runner-up, Conservative Hilary Johnson, 595 votes, followed by:
UKIP – Alistair Baxter, 506 votes,
Green Party – Tony Murphy, 93 votes,
Liberal Democrat – Stephen O’Brien, 52 votes.
23.4 per cent turn out – 2,026 people put of a total electorate of 8,672.
Former ward councillor Neville Padgett announced he was standing down in October, citing ‘health reasons’
The news came after he had previously taken flak over claiming more than £26,000 in expenses in just two years.
It emerged late last month that Mr Padgett has been ordered to repay some of the money, but it has not yet been revealed how much.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 12 Dec 2014
Former councillor Neville Padgett has been told to pay back some of his expenses after he claimed £26,000 in just over two years.
Mr Padgett resigned from his post last month citing health reasons after being re-elected in May in a landslide victory.
It was previously reported how Mr Padgett claimed £11,000 2012/13 – almost a third of the £34,000 total claimed by all 75 councillors. He claimed another £15,000 the following year on top of his £8,369 basic allowance.
The expenses included food, refreshments, and mileage claims. He justified the latter by claiming to spend one day a week driving around every street in his ward to check on litter problems.
It’s understood that Mr Padgett attended a meeting held behind closed doors, of the council’s standards board, shortly before his resignation.
Council bosses have always insisted councillor’s claims are regularly monitored and reviewed “in line with national guidelines”.
But at a full council meeting last week, leader Paul Watson admitted the authority has been investigating Mr Padgett.
He said: “It is a delicate operation to decide what we think he should pay back. We have been looking at it for some time now.”
Tory opposition leader Lee Martin had tabled a question, asking if and how much Mr Padgett will be asked to repay, what category of claims and what time periods these relate to.
Coun Watson said: “Yes, Mr Padgett has been requested to repay an amount of money in respect of his previous expenses.
“The relevant information regarding the amount that is required to be repaid, the nature of these expenses and the period to which they relate will be provided in a report for publication at a future date.”
Back in March, Coun Watson said there was no question as to the legitimacy of Mr Padgett’s expense claims.
“At the end of the day, there are a lot of other people on the council who don’t claim their full allowances, so rather than concentrating on someone who seemingly claim what he is entitled to, look at the councillors who don’t put expenses in and pay out of their own pockets,” he said at the time.
But Coun Martin tackled Coun Watson about his earlier statement, asking: “Does the leader now regret telling the press that he was only claiming what he was entitled to.
“Does he regret making that claim when this is more than 1,200 employees of this council earned in that year? Does he regret that now ex-councillor Padgett has been told to repay the money, will he apologise to the city for not keeping a closer watch on him?”
Coun Watson hit back saying: “I don’t regret what I said, my comments were made in good faith at the time under the circumstances.
“I don’t apologise if anyone in here is making a less than honest claim. Padgett may have transgressed, we don’t know whether he has crossed the boundaries, that’s what the process is all about. I believed that he was claiming what he was entitled to. If I thought he hadn’t I wouldn’t have said so.”
A by-election to replace Mr Padgett in the Washington East ward will be held on December 11. Those standing are Alistair Baxter (Ukip), Hilary Johnson (Conservative), Tony Murphy (Green Party), Stephen O’Brien (LibDem), Tony Taylor (Labour).
Source – Sunderland Echo, 01 Dec 2014
A Sunderland city councillor who claimed more than £26,000 in expenses in two years has resigned.
Labour representative Neville Padgett suddenly stepped down from his Washington East seat just five months after he was re-elected in May.
Earlier this year, there were calls for 68-year-old Mr Padgett to resign when figures showed he was claiming £1,250 per month on top of his annual £8,369 basic allowance – more than he would receive if he were in a minimum wage job.
It’s understood that Mr Padgett attended a meeting of Sunderland City Council’s standards board on Friday, although council bosses would not confirm this .
Council chief executive Dave Smith said in a statement:
“The city council can confirm a notice of resignation has been received from Coun Neville Padgett. A notice of vacancy in the Washington East ward will be published in due course.”
Mr Padgett hit the headlines in March when the 2012/13 expenses were published. He was found to have claimed £11,000 – almost a third of the £34,000 total claimed by all 75 councillors.
The expenses included food, refreshments, and mileage claims. At the time, he justified the latter by claiming to spend one day a week driving around every street in his ward to check on litter problems.
Then figures released in April showed that in 2013/14, he had claimed even more – just over £15,000 – to supplement his basic allowance.
A month later, voters in Washington East re-elected him for another term in a landslide victory. Tory opposition leader Lee Martin, who has led calls for Mr Padgett to step down, has now asked the council to investigate.
Coun Martin said he plans to table a question for the November meeting of the full council in order that any findings of the standards board are made public. He said:
“I have asked for the council to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing. I believe his resignation is linked to his expenses.
“I’m still waiting for the council to confirm that they completed the review I asked for to ensure his expenses were legitimate. It is in the public interest to know it has been done properly.”
Mr Padgett’s former Labour colleague and Washington South councillor Graeme Miller said:
“This is a standards board issue. I don’t know what their report said. I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. He has resigned before the end of the process. Whatever happened on Friday is between Neville and the members of the standards board.”
Council leader Paul Watson said Mr Padgett’s resignation letter cited health grounds and that he needed more time to care for his wife.
“The electorate returned him with a greater majority and there is no better test than the local community making the verdict,” Coun Watson added.
Dave Smith said:
“Concerns were raised earlier this year about re-examining certain councillor expenses claims. These are audited on a risk assessed basis and any issues are raised with individuals in line with the Code of Conduct that all councillors sign.
“Because of the code and its procedures, it would be inappropriate to advise other councillors of an audit conclusion or for the council to make any further comment.”
A spokesman for Labour North said:
“Neville Padgett has not resigned from the Labour Party, but we do understand he has resigned as a councillor on Sunderland City Council.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 17 Oct 2014
A Sunderland councillor who came under fire for claiming £11,000 of expenses and allowances in one year has come in for fresh criticism – after his claims increased.
Neville Padgett (Labour) was responsible for a third of all councillor claims in 2012/13, pocketing £11,110 out of the £34,000 received by 75 councillors.
Now figures for the 2013/14 financial year show the Washington East ward representative received £15,074 in expenses – prompting one opposition councillor to call him a “greedy pig”.
> He certainly appears to have his snout wedged firmly in the trough…
The 68-year-old now claims £1,250 per month on top of his annual £8,369 basic allowance – more than he would receive if he were in a minimum wage job.
He previously said the mileage was clocked up by spending one day a week driving around every street in his ward to check on litter problems.
In total, the Labour councillor claimed £8,265 in travel expenses and £6,808 in subsistence claims, for food and refreshments while out of the house.
The latest figures were provided by Sunderland City Council’s payroll and pensions department on the request of Conservative members, under councillors’ privilege. Tory councillor Lee Martin said: “Quite blatantly he is a greedy pig.
“While an increasing number of people are having to use food banks, the council are allowing a councillor to trough £35,000, which is way higher than most MPs.
“He must be the hardest-working, most dedicated councillor. ”
> Coun. Martin is obviously not up to speed with his party’s stance on food banks… but he has a point – Coun. Padgett is evidently a one-man food bank all on his own.
When approached by the Sunderland Echo about the claims, Coun Padgett said there was an audit being carried out into how much he has received and, until that was complete, it would be unfair to comment.
He added: “I don’t look at how much it is when I put receipts in. There is a lot of things to discuss at the moment so it’s very difficult to comment.”
Coun Padgett has now claimed £35,535.42 in expenses since being elected in 2010, having claimed £2,930 in 2010/11 and £6,419.06 in 2011/12.
Council leader Paul Watson said he hoped councillors would use common sense when submitting claims. He said: “I think it’s up to the individual councillor. We would expect every councillor to only submit legitimate and fair and proper claims and they are being examined as they are submitted, I understand.
“It falls to each councillor to be answerable to their electorate.
“We expect every councillor to be understanding of the economic situation in the city and would expect them to be as frugal as possible when claiming.”
Independent group leader, Coun Colin Wakefield, said: “It’s a significant increase and clearly going the wrong way, when we are trying to drive costs down. It’s not good enough really.”
A Sunderland City Council spokeswoman confirmed Coun Padgett’s expense and allowance claims were being looked at.
She said: “The city council has received a request from one member to re-examine certain member expenses claims.
“The chief executive has sought and been given assurance that members’ expenses claims are being audited on a risk assessed basis. A scheduled audit of payroll including expenses is currently on-going.
“Any concerns will be addressed through this process.”
Source – Sunderland Echo 23 April 2014
One Sunderland councillor was responsible for a third of all expenses claimed by members last year – supplementing his basic allowance by £900 every month.
Labour backbencher Neville Padgett claimed £11,110 out of the £34,000 total claimed by all 75 councillors in 2012/13.
Figures on Sunderland City Council’s website show Coun Padgett’s travel expenses amounted to £7,084 with another £4,026 claimed for subsistence, in addition to the basic £8,369 allowance all councillors are entitled to.
During the year, the Washington East member claimed up to the maximum £28.73 per day in subsistence for a total 274 days, which included two bank holidays.
In contrast, Coun Padgett’s Washington East ward colleague, Coun Fiona Miller claimed just £183.15 in travel expenses, while Coun David Snowdon, who was elected in May 2012, after the start of the financial year, claimed £540 in travel expenses. Neither of them claimed subsistence.
Married father-of-two Coun Padgett, who lives in Houghton, was queried by the council’s payroll department for “several entries for tour of ward” claims.
In a reply via email – seen by the Echo – Coun Padgett, 68, said he tours his ward by car once a week because of “litter problems”.
He wrote: “I cover every street and road throughout the ward. This is because of the increase in litter problems etc. The ward is the largest by area in Sunderland so the most economical way of covering it is by car.”
From March 4, 2012, to February 24, 2013, Coun Padgett completed 52 tours.
Driving his 1,400cc Vauxhall Corsa, he claimed 45p per mile for 47 51-mile trips – a total of £22.95 each time. One trip of 53 miles was also claimed for at that rate, resulting in a claim for £23.85.
The four final claims of that year were for 51-mile trips at 25p per mile – the rate councillors can claim when they have clocked up in excess of 10,000 miles – resulting in claims of £12.75. In total, £1,153.50 of taxpayers’ money was spent on Coun Padgett’s litter tours.
Tory opposition councillor Lee Martin has now formally asked the council to look into the legitimacy of the claims.
“He is a back bench councillor and he appears to have five appointments a day, which makes him eligible to claim subsistence allowance,” Coun Martin said.
“He does it nearly every day, including Saturdays. He must be the most dedicated member of this council. He has claimed just over £4,000 in subsistence. He must never have been to the supermarket all year, and is claiming travel expenses to look for litter.
“He needs to be brought to account. I’m the first person to say councillors shouldn’t be out of pocket for what they do, but he claims nearly £1,000 a month. If all councillors claimed that amount the total bill would be £883,000. It’s just not acceptable.”
Council leader Paul Watson, who claimed just £26 in travel expenses and £309 subsistence, said: “I’m probably not one to judge their expenses, but I can say that every claim that is put in for expenses goes through the system and is checked by officers.
“I understand that there has been no questions as to the legitimacy of the expenses. At the end of the day, there are a lot of other people on the council who don’t claim their full allowances, so rather than concentrating on someone who seemingly claim what he is entitled to, look at the councillors who don’t put expenses in and pay out of their own pockets.”
A statement from Sunderland City Council said: “The city council has received a request from one member to re-examine certain member expenses claims.
“The chief executive has sought and been given assurance that members’ expenses claims are being audited on a risk assessed basis. Any concerns will be addressed through this process.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 13 March 2014