All aboard the gravy train

We have just gone through an election for our new councils. Little did we know that while we were being talked to about the need for balanced budgets and battling austerity that some of our very own public representatives have been jetting off around the world and it appears for a few money has been no object. Sure, as our friends over at Pantene would say, you’re worth it!

Tonight we name and shame some of the councillors and their claims for travel expenses and overseas travel.

Travel to meetings

Cllrs have to get around to a variety of meetings as part of their jobs, it is the nature of politics but there is a massive disparity between some councillor’s expenses in this area and others.

Take Cllr Frank McCoubrey for example who over the 2013/14 period claimed £2,112.50 for travel to meetings related to council business.  Compare this to his party colleague and representative for the same ward Brian Kingston who claimed just £150.15 for the same period. Keeping McCoubrey company is former Mayor Cllr. Jim Rodgers who has charged £1,648.70 on travel in the last year to the rate payer.

Over on the nationalist side, Cllr Jim McVeigh claimed £1,487.20 for travel, but this in fairness is a bit lighter than the claim made by SDLP Cllr Pat McCarthy who sent a bill to the rate payer of £1,868.10 for the last year.

Then we have Cllr Mervyn Jones, who claimed £1,289.10 for travel, while his party colleague who shares the same ward, Laura McNamee, claimed nothing for the same period.

Honourable exceptions in this category include Niall Ó Donnghaile, Chris Stalford, Gavin Robinson and Nichola Mallon who claimed nothing at all during this period.

Overseas Travel

Worst offenders here include…….Cllr Deirdre Hargey, who for one night in New York in June 2013 charged £769.18 for a room. The entire trip including flights and food cost £2,542.24. Contrast this to Bernie Kelly who went in September of that year and paid less than half of that price £382.

But not to be out done her party colleague, Cllr Caoimhín Mac Giolla Mhín, decided to take in the sights of Hefel, Austria for 4 nights at a nice cost of £2,774.98. CORRECTION-It was actually Hefei, China, which does make more sense for that cost. Thanks to commenter JAG for pointing out this error.

Then we have Cllr Guy Spence who on a night to New York for a conference ended up costing £1,919.61. Compare this type of expenditure to Cllr Laura McNamee who managed to make it to Nigeria and charge just £259.

There are some honourable exceptions here too, Ruth Patterson, Catherine Curran, Tierna Cunningham and Mary Clarke.

Final thought

Slugger doesn’t highlight this to say all of them are at it, but we just think this should be made as widely available as possible. So many people are struggling in this city and the next time a Cllr comes to your door to say how much they are on your side, look these figures up and find out if they really are.

We understand that Councillors often do not make their own travel arrangements but surely they individually and collectively should take steps to ensure that we, as rate payers, get value for money.

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