A WEARSIDE 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.
Labour’s Neville Padgett 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”.
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. ”
When approached by the 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.”
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