A few snippets that I’ve gleaned from the complaints about Cllr Heatley’s ‘accidental’ over-claiming, by reading the officers’ report into the investigation that can be found on Keith Konkagor’s website (link):
1) He had signed undertakings to abide by the Councillors’ Code of Conduct in May 2005 and again in June 2009. But he claimed not to have received any training on it (odd, he’s been a councillor for 16 years, and these started coming in way before 2005). Turns out that he missed the last two opportunities to attend training. So, what kind of person signs up to something and doesn’t take the time to understand what it means?
2) When travelling to and from Warwick from his home, he claimed mileage for 52 miles. The shortest route (which is what most companies will use) is about 36 miles. Going via the A46 past Coventry would be about 45 miles – I checked these myself on googlemaps. When claiming for mileage to and from Nuneaton railway station, he put down 10 miles for the round trip, when the distance should be 3 miles each way. This is in contravention of expenses rules.
3) When travelling by train to London, he often claimed for a First Class ticket, which is more expensive than a standard class ticket bought on the day of travel, even if booked in advance. This is in contravention of the expenses rules.
4) The original complaint concerned recent claims, but the investigation by the council went over the period 2009-2009. It was estimated that the over-claim on trips to and from Shire Hall in this period alone amounted to over £2,000. It was also established that this had been ongoing for some time before 2007.
5) He didn’t fill out claim forms properly, ostensibly to save money on paperwork, and didn’t include a description of the meetings/or duties when doing so. This is in contravention of the expenses policy
6) Taking a sample of car journeys claimed for other than to and from the Shire Hall or Nuneaton Station, it was found that the total distance claimed for was about 25% higher than the shortest distance by road would be, which is what should have been claimed for.
7) He claimed that using First Class rail travel was partly done because it offers greater privacy when discussing senstive matters. Last time I was on a Virgin or Midland train, the First Class carriage was not made up of private booths, and so it’s not much less private than standard class. He surely shouldn’t be openly discussing such matters on the train anyway?
8 ) He also said that Virgin offered a special rate for businessmen who travel first class, so it was cheaper. Virgin do not offer such a rate, and even by booking advance tickets he was claiming more than he would if he’d bought a standard ticket on the day of travel. The estimated overclaims for 2007-2009 for this came to about £600
9) The double claim was for travel to a Planning training event in Swansea, for which claims went in in both August and September 2007. There were in fact two meetings for which he claimed where he was not listed as attending – for one of those he sent apologies for absence.
From this, I can only conclude that the amount he’s had to repay is the bare minimum based on a double claim and claims for meetings he didn’t go to. But that came to about £200, and it’s estimated that over £2600 has been over paid to Cllr Heatley over the period 2007-9.
Not keeping proper records, not filling in the forms properly, coming up with vague reasons for long journeys and not taking the training that he should have are not excuses for the over claiming. Indeed, they suggest to me that he has generally been failing in his obligations
Indeed, reading Mr Kondakor’s comments, and the claim forms that were obtained from a Freedom of Information request, it seems that there were other oddities:
- A 100-mile round trip to Leicester, which is 22 miles from his Nuneaton home
- A 20 mile round trip to Bermuda Village, which is at the end of the road his farm is on, and over the A444
- A claim of 40 miles for a round trip to Coventry (about 10 miles away depending where it was he was going t0) on the 32nd March 2009
The report itself is damning. I can’t understand how he got away so leniently. Is Mr Kondakor right about the compostion of the committee that met to decide the complaint on Monday?