Ex-Cheshire West & Chester Council leader's expenses probed

By Phil McCann
Cheshire Political Reporter, BBC News

Image source, Cheshire West & Chester Council
Image caption,
Mike Jones led Cheshire West & Chester Council between 2009 and 2015

A former council leader's expenses are being reviewed over claims they may have breached the authority's rules.

Mike Jones, who led Cheshire West & Chester Council until 2015, spent £4,889 on a credit card for travel, food and accommodation, and failed to provide some receipts.

The authority's rules state those type of credit card transactions are "barred" and receipts must be provided. A police review is also under way.

Mr Jones said he met the rules.

In February, council officials announced an internal review of Mr Jones' credit card transactions, after details of his spending were revealed by the Chester Chronicle.

The BBC has been told the review will look into why the card was used for "subsistence, travel and accommodation", and also why receipts were not provided on 75 occasions, after new rules were introduced in 2013.

A "purchase card procedure" introduced in January 2013 states it "must not" be used to pay for food, drinks, travel, parking or accommodation.

A list of transactions shows Mr Jones' card was used for those purposes between 2010 and 2015, as well as paying for hospitality expenses.

Mr Jones was the only councillor to own a council credit card when he ran the Conservative-led Cheshire West & Chester Council from 2009 until elections in 2015, when Labour gained control.

He is now a backbench Conservative councillor for Tattenhall.

Image source, Google

Some of Mike Jones' expenses paid for on his council credit card include:

  • £400 on hospitality at Chester's five-star Grosvenor Hotel
  • £219 to stay at the Chilworth Manor Hotel, Hampshire
  • £138 on hospitality at the Queens Hotel, Chester in which no receipt was provided

In total, the card was used to spend £2,383 on the "barred" categories after the new rules were introduced.

Mr Jones said he was given an exemption allowing him to use his card to pay for parking, adding that some of his transactions may have related to work he carried out for the Local Government Association.

Records released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal Mr Jones did not provide receipts for transactions which mostly included parking and rail travel, despite rules saying "cardholders are required to retain all purchase receipts".

He said: "In all the cases where receipts are issued I have passed them into the council and if they are missing, unfortunately I have no idea why they have not been recorded.

"Expenses and use of the purchase card were properly scrutinised by officers and our audit staff. No such issue was raised with me," he said.

Image source, Google
Image caption,
Cheshire West & Chester Council is reviewing credit card transactions

Council spokesman Mark Wynn said: "Councillor Jones, in his role as leader, met with potential external investors with a view to attracting regeneration and development to the borough.

"The council has reviewed all the transactions brought to its attention and responded accordingly and is conducting its own internal review."

Cheshire Police received a complaint from a former Cheshire West & Chester councillor in February.

It said: "The allegation is currently being reviewed, in order to establish whether any offences may have been committed."

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