Friday, 19 March 2010

Taxi fares - a dose of realism

I am the person who persuaded the council to put councillors' itemised expense claims on the internet allowing detailed public scrutiny. I am also one of the 19 councillors (out of 58) who have not claimed any council payment for taxis in the last two years. Nor do I have a bus pass paid for at public expense.

Today the Evening News runs an article Councillors' £3k taxi bill despite free bus passes. It lists the taxi claims of each councillor over the past two years (table not in the online version) and highlights a call by Cllr Alison Johnstone (Green) not to use taxis because public transport is available.

That gives me the opportunity to note that it is perfectly reasonable for a busy councillor to use taxis where they will make him or her more productive. Particularly where a councillor has a demanding post the use of taxis can enable him or her to use their time and ability more efficiently and he or she should have no hesitation in claiming from public funds for genuine public service. It is to be expected that the conveners of busy committees should have larger bills than others.

The point is to get good value for the public pound and to carp and complain about the use of taxis in principle is shortsighted and unrealistic.

Correction: Paul has rightly pointed out that I did claim for two taxi fares in the summer of 2008. I checked the last year but not the year before. Apologies. CR

15 comments:

paul said...

Cameron the misuse of public funds should always raise a complaint, the article merely highlights, the timeing and the pick up point both which are bit suspect, from the councillors house and after midnight should both be looked at

paul said...

Think you will also find you claimed for taxi fares july and august 2008,not saying there is anything wrong with this but if your going to make statements got get them right

Cameron Rose said...

Paul, Thanks for pointing out my mistake. Correction added. Which all underlines the value of having them fully available for scrutiny.

There's nothing to show that public funds have been misused - though in the cases you cite, I do agree there is good reason to delve a bit further. I just wanted to caution against a hairshirt approach which might be counter productive.

Thanks for contributing.

paul said...

Cameron, having looked at taxi expenses claimed from various councillors i see that a lot and the the majority from our party unlike yourself ,have not itemised their taxi claims but infact lumped them all together lt looks to me from the claims on line that there is no way of the public knowing what the taxi fares are for, and sadly it looks like some members of our party are claiming for taxi fares from there house to the city chambers

paul said...

sorry i should ave said claiming for mileage from their house to the city chambers

paul said...

cameron i recall sometime ago you called on the party to be more transparent with their expenses, a good call i would say, sadly it looks like it fell on death ears,seems they are still lumping there expenses all together making it hard for anyone to tell whats genuine, would you agree?

Cameron Rose said...

Paul,

Thanks for your interest and scrutiny. Will have a look in this coming week into the points you make. A couple of clarifications. I do not recall specifically addressing my concerns and efforts for transparency to one particular party - rather to all.
Secondly, I do recall there being concerns (particularly from women) about the identification of specific addresses. I certainly accepted that cognisance had to be taken of security risks/fears.

paul said...

True you were talking about all scottish councillors which includes our party, i guess if they were not taking taxis from their house to say the city chambers they would not have to put their home address down in the first place and the ones that have could easily write home to city chambers without giving their home address out that would be done easily,Cameron i would say voters look to the councillors to set examples and to lead in an honest manner the majority seem to be lacking on these points, any chance we might see you as group leader one day? all tho i dont agree with all the things you say i do at least admire your honesty and would rather follow someone who is honest and has scruples

paul said...

Any development on this front cllr. Rose?

paul said...

Cameron,are you avoiding this question?

paul said...

Cameron can you answaer my question,its simlie really or dont you want to keep your voters happy?

paul said...

ignorance agian, i take this being brushed under the carpet,why should any one vote for you?

paul said...

ladies and gentlemen of southside,this is one of your councillors avioding difficult queastions about the tory partys expenses, an issuse that he choose to highlight, then claimed he had not used taxis for the last two years which turned out to be untrue, on futher examination changed his comment and now when i highlight possible futher mistakes in the party councillors expenses he chooses not to reply are you or members of the party hideing anything else cllr cameron rose?

Cameron Rose said...

Paul. Apologies for taking three weeks to get back to you instead of the one I anticipated. As you can imagine it is a very busy time.

First up, if you look at expenses to date in the current year and 'contract taxi' fares they seem to amount to about £57. That seems to me to be a pretty low figure for the Conservative group.

If you want to go back to last year, the figures are pretty limited as well. There are a couple which are bigger than the rest but, by any measure, I can hardly think you believe them unreasonable overall.

Next, the grouping of them together. When I pushed for published itemised expenses, as I explained above, some members expressed concern about personal vulnerability. The rules drawn up accordingly do not require publication of itemised journeys on the web. Individual detailed claims are submitted and they are checked by the Finance Department. If there are concerns about specific totals - or journeys - there are ways of having them checked.

The current rules are that claims can be made for transport to and from Council business. The rules do not preclude home to the Council Chambers providing it is for Council business. Most don't claim for any journeys from home to the Chambers. Such claims might not be good practise but it is well within the reimbursements allowed (though to do that run by taxi might not be allowable depending on the circumstances.

paul said...

If thats the case, thtas a good improvment well done, need to have a wee look later tho,im sure the figures will just be for the last quater and a clearer way to look at it would be over the last 12 months, some cllrs. have in fact on previous forms lumped there taxi expenses off the form and on the bottom left hand side of the screen you would have to scrool down to see them, a little cunning me thinks,well done on highlighting this issuealthough not so well done on my comments regarding the numbers shop any chance of an answear please?

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