Call for county councillors to publish expenses

New Norfolk county councillors elected tomorrow and senior officers will have to publish regular updates of their expenses online claims as part of a move to help restore trust in politics.

New Norfolk county councillors elected tomorrow and senior officers will have to publish regular updates of their expenses claims online as part of a move to help restore trust in politics.

Tory leader Daniel Cox has put forward the plan for his own group, which he wants to put in place after tomorrow's local government vote - if, as expected, the Conservatives retain control of County Hall.

And last night the measure received cross-party support from the three opposition parties currently represented on the authority - making it likely that all councillors would follow suit.

Mr Cox said he decided to act following widespread voter anger while campaigning during the election.

He said expenses of councillors and top bosses, including chief executive David White, would be published "online and in detail" from day one of the new administration.

Currently, there is an annual round-up of councillor claims released after the accounts have been signed off, but the move would mark the first time officer expenses have been published - though councillors submit expenses claims on a monthly basis.

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"Having spoken to many residents over the past month, there is understandable anger at the manner in which some MPs have milked the system to their benefit and, sadly, some people are assuming that such behaviour also applies to honest local councillors," said Mr Cox.

"No one becomes a councillor to make money. Councillors work long and often anti-social hours on council business and many carry out council work on top of a full-time job or are self-employed. But I firmly believe that being open and transparent allows residents to engage more fully with the political process as well as seeing the excellent value for money the public receives from local councillors.

"I also want to publish the expenses of chief officers because they too, must be open to public scrutiny.

"Transparency is the best way of dealing with such concerns, so if a Conservative administration is re-elected and I remain leader, I will have no hesitation in seeing that all expenses claimed by Conservative county councillors and chief officers are published online from day one, but I very much want to see all councillors do this across party."

Labour's Sue Whitaker backed the moves.

"I certainly wouldn't have a problem with it, I don't think we have got anything to hide," she said. "At the moment, all people are saying is we've all got our fingers in the till.

"I think the officers' expenses might be the more revealing because they are the ones who tend to go on the foreign trips or to meetings in London."

Lib Dem leader Paul Morse said he would support the idea, but he said it was important that the context behind any claims was explained because some councillors, such as those covering rural areas, might have higher costs in areas such as transport, than those in urban ones.

"I think it's one of a number of measures which could help take the sting out of it, but we also need to explain much more clearly what councillors do," he said. "It's clear that people don't understand their role. It's important that the context is explained."

Andrew Boswell, from the Green Party, said: "That's exactly what we would be calling for, it would be very worthwhile. It's important to distinguish between MPs' expenses and councillor expenses and to realise that councillors don't make huge claims for everything."