Tagged: Sunderland city councillor

Sunderland councillor quits due to ‘health reasons’ after £26,000 expenses claims

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

Benefit fraud councillor claimed £5,000 in allowances – despite not attending a single meeting

A Sunderland city councillor continued to claim thousands of pounds in allowances after being convicted of benefit fraud – despite not attending a single meeting.

Lisa Smiles pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to notify Sunderland City Council of a change in circumstances, when she appeared before city magistrates in September.

She received £2,318 in payments across 12 months, after she did not declare wages and her councillor’s allowance.

She was suspended by the Labour Party, but could not be sacked as a city councillor as she had not been sentenced to at least three months jail, as set out in the Local Government Act 1972.

Smiles, who represented the St Anne’s ward, eventually stood down at the end of January – just days before she faced being booted off the council because she had not attended a single meeting in six months.

But despite attending her last Sunderland City Council meeting on July 24 last year, Smiles continued to claim cash totting up £5,422.99 between her conviction and quitting politics.

The amount is the pro-rata portion during that period, made up of her £8,369 basic allowance, her £6,277 special responsibility allowance as vice chairman of the West Sunderland area Committee, and mobile phone allowance.

Although Smiles has not done anything illegal, she came under fire by members of all political groups on the council.

Conservative Councillor Lee Martin said: “The extra allowance she has claimed is more than the amount she is having to repay for defrauding housing benefit. I’m disgusted.”

Colin Wakefield, leader of the independent group said: “It is incomprehensible that a councillor who has been prosecuted by the council for fraud and thrown out of the Labour group, is still allowed to hold a special responsibility allowance and have her mobile phone bills paid after being effectively ceasing to be a councillor.”

Sunderland Council leader Councillor Paul Watson said: “I wouldn’t condone it at all. I don’t know the reason she hasn’t come in, whether she was just too embarrassed or whatever, I haven’t a clue.

“But if people are not getting the amount of representation the public pay for, it’s the law that needs changing. The law could be expulsion after not attending for a couple of months or a certain number of consecutive meetings. It casts a shadow on all elected members.”

> So all agree it was not a good thing – after the event. Even though it was apparently legal.

What did any of them actually do at the time ? What will any of them do to stop it happening in the future ?

Source – Sunderland Echo,  07 March 2014