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Councillors' expenses claims down by half; Kirklees leader Khan tops list.

Byline: BARRY GIBSON

COUNCILLORS' claims for travel and hotels are down by about 50%.

New figures show taxpayers are paying out far less in expenses to the 69 members of Kirklees Council.

In January the Examiner revealed that councillors had charged for conferences, away days and travel to watch the Huddersfield Giants in the Challenge Cup final in the last three years.

The figures covered 2008/09, 2009/10 and April to November 2010.

This week Kirklees released data for December 2010 and January 2011 following a Freedom of Information Act request by the Examiner.

The figures show councillors claimed just pounds 563.53 in December and pounds 728.19 in January. The monthly bills are way down on 2009/10 when councillors charged taxpayers pounds 15,839 - an average of pounds 1,319 a month.

Kirklees leader Clr Mehboob Khan was the most frequent claimer for December 2010 and January 2011.

The Labour man billed the taxpayer for eight events, including Local Government Association * TRAVEL: Clr (LGA) meetings in London and a Local Government Yorkshire and Humber (LGYH) get-together in York.

He also claimed for attending an Association of West Yorkshire Authorities (AWYA) meeting in Leeds and for events in Bradford and Wakefield.

But the Greenhead councillor said yesterday he had to travel to meetings around the country.

"The leader of the council has to represent Kirklees at both regional

and national level," he said.

"The LGA is where the vast majority of that work is undertaken.

As with previous council leaders, I use these opportunities to influence the policy agenda in favour of councils like Kirklees.

"I also use these opportunities to learn what other councils are doing and use that information to try and have a more efficient Kirklees."

Clr Khan added that he tried to keep costs down during over-night stays in the capital.

He said: "My son is a student in London and, whenever possible, I avoid Mehboob Khan hotel costs by sleeping on his sofa."

The biggest single claim in the two-month period was made by Clr Andrew Cooper.

The leader of the four-strong Green group on Kirklees received pounds 298 in travel expenses for attending an LGA Economy and Transport Board meeting in London on January 20.

The Newsome man said yesterday that the event had been useful.

"There are points we put across at the meeting which were then put to members of central government," he said.

"It was a way of getting through to ministers directly about the problems we are having because of the spending cuts."

Altogether the 69 Kirklees councillors claimed for attending 17 meetings and training events in December 2010 and January 2011.

Labour Cabinet members Clr Peter O'Neill, Clr Shabir Pandor, Clr Cath Harris and Clr Peter McBride all received at least one payment in the two-month period.

The only other councillor to make a claim was Lindley Lib Dem Clr Cahal Burke, who received pounds 46.80 in travel expenses for an Institute of Leadership and Management event in Barnsley.

None of the council's 19 Conservatives made any claims in the two-month period.

The Examiner has also uncovered the expenses of top Kirklees officers in the same two-month period.

Yesterday we reported that interim director of resources Julie Alderson had received pounds 1,000 a month for rent, mileage, food, lightbulbs and batteries.

However, the figures show none of her three fellow directors made any expenses claims in December 2010 or January 2011.

Kirklees chief executive Adrian Lythgo claimed just pounds 11.20 - the cost of two return train tickets to Leeds.

All 69 Kirklees Councillors receive a basic allowance of pounds 12,566 a year.

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* TRAVEL: Clr Mehboob Khan
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 12, 2011
Words:616
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