Middlesbrough Mayor responds to Gazette investigation into mileage expenses claimed by councillors at the authority.
Mayor Ray Mallon has responded to details of the mileage claims.
The independent mayor provided a lengthy statement in which he also spoke for the five Labour and one independent councillors.
We have reproduced it in full below.
Mallon said “When I became the Elected Mayor in 2002, councillors’ expenses were completely out of control, with thousands of pounds being spent on first class rail travel, high quality hotels and exorbitant claims for meals.
“There was even a problem with the Civic Suite being used as a social club setting, with many councillors being wined and dined on an almost nightly basis to the tune of £15,000 in just one year.
“On top of that the previous Mayor had the sole use of a Jaguar limousine and chauffeur.
“Within a month of my election, all of that had more or less stopped, with the exception of councillor claims for mileage – which had not been excessive.
“I also ditched the Jaguar and began driving a Smart Car, which had been supplied to the council for free.
“I now have access to a Ford Fiesta diesel van, which is not chauffeur driven but allows me to perform my operational functions as the Elected Mayor in attending the many localities across Middlesbrough.
“Councillors have been able to claim mileage to and from the Town Hall and also for attendance at particular events in their individual duties, just as I have in my duties as Elected Mayor.
To an extent, the mileage was part and parcel of my salary package and I have claimed the mileage for the past 12 years.
“Earlier this year further changes were introduced with regards to mileage allowances and it should be stressed that these were agreed by elected members themselves.
“The culture we have now is in stark contrast to the old days of ‘high flying’ councillors who were abusing the public purse prior to my arrival.
“I have said in the past that councillors are not paid enough and if I had my way they would be paid more.
“Certainly, they should be able to claim out-of-pocket and incidental expenses, and that includes travel costs incurred in the carrying out of their official duties.
“This is something I believe the public would agree with.
“I do not believe there is any abuse of expenses by councillors within this authority and I actually believe we are one of the most prudent councils in the country where expenses are concerned.
“In my view the claims are not excessive and if there are any claims which are questionable then I will personally speak to the councillor concerned after I have analysed them in detail.”