Cheshire East is looking into a former councillor’s expenses after our sister paper the Crewe Chronicle uncovered what appears to be excessively high mileage and meal claims.
Former councillor Bill Livesley, who lost his seat in 2015, topped the table in travel expense claims for the last three years he was a councillor claiming £4,516 in 2012-13, £4,324 in 2013-14 and £4,007 in 2014-15.
The Cheshire East expense claims are on top of the £11,199.96 all members get for being a councillor and his special responsibility allowances for chairing committees and other duties, which in 2014-15 was £7,280.
All that money comes from council tax payers across the borough – including Crewe, Nantwich and Sandbach.
Mr Livesley, who represented Bollington, said: “I served on 17 committees on behalf of Cheshire East and gave my full-time commitment working 40/50 hours per week including evenings and weekend work.”
For his last three years on Cheshire East, the Conservative councillor claimed more than the then-council leader – in his final year claiming £1,370 more than Michael Jones for travel expenses, despite not having any cabinet responsibilities.
Among the claims the Chronicle has queried with the council and Mr Livesley, were 60 return trips from his Macclesfield home to council meetings in Sandbach where he claimed 47 miles each time, when the direct route is 32 miles.
This extra mileage cost Cheshire East council tax payers an additional £405.
Mr Livesley justified this extra expense by saying he took a longer route to Sandbach 60 times to avoid traffic.
He also made 219 return trips to his Bollington ward from his home claiming 16 miles each time when, according to Google and the AA route finder, it is less than 10 miles.
At 45p a mile, this cost the council tax payer an extra £591.30.
There were also 84 return trips from the Conservative councillor’s Macclesfield home to places in Macclesfield – such as the town hall, when he claimed 12 miles each time.
Mr Livesley said the extra miles on the 219 Bollington trips and the 84 Macclesfield trips took into account the fact he would take various routes and he might check out planning application sites en-route, call in on constituents to deal with various matters or look at council issues such as blocked drains.
The paper also identified a number of days when Mr Livesley made numerous claims on the same day for travelling – such as June 4, 2014, when he claimed a return trip of 54 miles from Macclesfield to Nantwich, then a return trip of 47 miles from Macclesfield to Sandbach and then a return trip from his home in Macclesfield to Macclesfield Town Hall of 12 miles, but also claimed for breakfast and lunch allowances for that day, totalling £13.70, because, according to his meal expense claim sheets, he was away from home from 8am to 4.30pm.
Mr Livesley said that this was because he left home at 7am and then went to a meeting in Sandbach 1pm and a meeting at Macclesfield Town Hall at 2.45pm, so he bought meals and ate in a lay-by.
The paper put in a Freedom of Information request for Mr Livesley’s expense sheets from 2014/15 – the last year he was a councillor before losing his seat.
The information received last week threw up a number of questions – and the Chronicle contacted Cheshire East and Mr Livesley.
This week Cheshire East confirmed its internal audit team would be reviewing Mr Livesley’s expenses following our enquiries.
A council spokesman said: “All members of the council, when submitting their expenses, are expected to claim in accordance with the clear rules that apply to them.
“Members and officers, when signing their submitted claims, declare that they have ‘necessarily incurred the travel and subsistence expenditure for the purpose of enabling me to perform the approved duties listed as a member of Cheshire East Council’.
“They are further advised that they must declare that they have actually paid the fare and accrued the expenses claimed on the form.
“They are also advised that the authority is under a duty to protect the public funds.
“This matter has now been referred to the council’s internal audit team for review. When that is completed, the council will determine what further action, if any, should be taken.”
Mr Livesley's response:
In the interest of fairness we are printing some of the questions referred to in the story and Mr Livesley’s full responses.
We would also like to make it clear Mr Livesley claimed 45p a mile for travel. Councillors can claim 52p a mile, depending on engine size, and Mr Livesley claimed the lower amount.
We asked Mr Livesley about claiming 47 miles for a 32-mile round trip to Sandbach 60 times, about claiming 16 miles for 10-mile round trips 219 times to Bollington and about 84 return trips from Macclesfield to Macclesfield at 12 miles each. Mr Livesley said: “The trips to Bollington from Macclesfield take into account the fact that I would take various routes depending on what actions I needed to do en route – for example I often went through Prestbury to look at planning applications on the North area agenda or those coming up on planning lists that we were all sent.
“I would also call in on constituents on various matters in and around Bollington, or via Higher Hurdsfield where I would visit sites and look at council issues such as blocked drains, signs or dog fouling issues that I had to report to the Higher Hurdsfield Parish Council and/or Bollington Town Council. I attended all meetings regarding highway footpaths and planning items, and reported most days to the clerk at Bollington Town Council on my findings and updates. I sent and received over 20,000 emails during my time representing the ward and some days I was responsible for several visits per day inspecting new housing sites. The Macclesfield trips were again not direct, as I often visited sites regarding planning and was involved in the ANSA set up which required multiple meetings with union representatives to discuss the new company.
“For Macclesfield to Sandbach journeys, I went via the B5359 and A535 to avoid Congleton which was incredibly congested and would cause me to miss several meetings had I not have the initiative to go a different way.
“The trip was 46.8 miles return from my house and 52 miles return from Bollington; a journey I took time and time again. Again, during my time as councillor, I would sometimes view sites that Cheshire East was looking at for a waste site before Middlewich was chosen.”
We asked Mr Livesley about claiming for meals because he was away from home but appearing to go back home as he also claimed for several return trips during the same day, for example, June 4, 2014 when he travelled:
From Macc to Nantwich back to Macc (54 miles claimed)
From Macclesfield to Sandbach back to Macclesfield (47 miles claimed)
From his home in Macclesfield to Macclesfield Town Hall and back (12 miles)
We asked if he returned to Macclesfield, why did he claim breakfast and lunch allowances for that day, totalling £13.70?
Mr Livesley replied: “June 4 – reason for claiming was that I had a meeting in Nantwich and left home at 7am with next meeting in Sandbach at 1pm. I then had a meeting at 2.45pm at Macclesfield Town Hall via town’s yard. I bought meals and ate it in a lay-by.”
He told the Express: “I have personally reached out to the council to resolve this matter as quickly as we can.”