By-election to replace controversial ex-councillor costs taxpayers £11,500

Neville Padgett
Neville Padgett
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A BY-ELECTION to replace a shamed ex-councillor cost Sunderland taxpayers more than £11,500.

Neville Padgett resigned from Sunderland City Council in October after hitting the headlines in March last year when his sizeable 2012/13 expenses were published.

The former member for Washington East had claimed £11,000 – almost a third of the £34,000 total claimed by all 75 councillors.

The 69-year-old’s 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 of £8,369 a year.

In December the Echo reported that he had been ordered to repay some of the £26,000 – although it has not yet been made public how much.

He was up for re-election last May, but despite calls from him to step down he decided to stand for re-election – and the electorate voted him back in a landslide victory.

However, just 23.4 per cent turned out to vote – 2,026 people out of a total electorate of 8,672.

Rather than wait until the forthcoming May elections to replace Mr Padgett, the council was forced to hold an election because two electors had submitted a notice to fill the vacancy.

Labour’s Tony Taylor won the by-election, which took place in December, with 775 votes.

At this week’s full council meeting Padgett’s former Labour ward colleague, Coun Fiona Miller, asked for the cost to be disclosed and whether the process could have waited until the May election to save money.

“It cost £11,529.31 to run the Washington East election,” Coun Henry Trueman responded. “The returning officer has a statutory duty to fill a vacancy within 35 days of the relevant notice being received from two electors to fill a vacancy, which it was on this occasion.”