Shake-up after hotel costs row

Coun Simon Blackburn
Coun Simon Blackburn
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ALLEGATIONS over a councillor’s trip to London have led to changes in the way expenses are dealt with at Blackpool Town Hall.

More than £4,500 was spent on an investigation into council leader Simon Blackburn’s conduct.

While he was cleared of any wrong doing, the inquiry has led to recommendations being passed to make expenses claims more transparent.

The investigation was launched in March last year when former council leader Coun Peter Callow lodged a complaint in relation to Coun Blackburn’s attendance at a Local Government Association (LGA) meeting in London.

It is understood Coun Blackburn had mistakenly thought the LGA would reimburse his travel costs and overnight stay and when it transpired this was not the case, a complaint was passed to the standards board over allegations he had misled the council.

Coun Blackburn said he had been passed incorrect information regarding expenses of the trip and as soon as he realised the error, he contacted The Gazette to clear the confusion.

He said: “They have gone through the allegations that Coun Callow put forward. It has been fully investigated and the independent solicitor saw I did nothing wrong.

“It is sad public money has been spent for political purposes, and Coun Callow shows no remorse for his actions.

“This should cause us to reflect on how we go about spending public money.”

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The total cost for the support and investigation work by independent lawyers Weightmans was £4,511.

Coun Callow said, while he thought the cost of the inquiry was excessive, it was worthwhile to make expenses more transparent.

He said: “The standards board is there to be used to protect council taxpayers’ money. There was no need for Simon Blackburn to go down the night before the meeting and stay overnight.

“I don’t regret anything about it. Transparency costs a lot of money sometimes and that’s the way of it.

“I don’t think the investigation should have taken as long as it did.

“But they have cleared up a loophole now. The onus is now on the councillor to find out if monies are reimbursed to the council.

“That is well worth referring the case to the standards.”

Recommendations were made by the standards committee that members’ expenses – when conducting business on outside bodies – are “clear to the member and the Council and those administering it”.

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