Councillor quits party over £1.2m expenses claims
ALANCASHIRE county councillor has quit the Conservative Party after speaking out over his colleagues’ £1m expenses bill.
Dr Paul Greenall, who represents West Lancashire East and previously served on the borough council, will now serve as an independent after expressing disgust at the amount of taxpayers’ money given to councillors.
The NHS worker revealed that councillors from all parties claimed £1.2m in allowances in 2016.
This figure includes the basic £10,000 allowance awarded to each councillor, as well as additional claims such as for travel and food and drink during meetings at County Hall in Preston.
He also called for action to be taken to stop additional payments being made to party whips and secretaries and claimed he was warned by members of the Conservatives not to speak out.
Dr Greenall wanted to pass two amendments to tackle the issue – to remove travel and food expenses and to scrap additional special responsibility allowances.
Speaking to the full council, he said: “Last year, members of this council cost the tax-payer over £1.2m in allowances.
“Whilst I do not believe councillors should serve their communities for free, I take great issue with the fact that having received a basic allowance of over £10,000, members are entitled to claim travel and subsistence, when attending meetings at County Hall.
“I work in the NHS and a university, I work with people from all walks of life, and all income groups, but we all have two things in common: When we attend our normal place of work, we all pay our travel costs, and at meal times, we all buy our own food. Under HMRC rules, we cannot claim these expenses back.
“When politicians are treated differently to ordinary people, something is wrong. And when politicians can claim benefits at taxpayers’ expense, benefits which taxpayers themselves cannot claim, something is very wrong indeed.”
He added: “I became involved in politics to serve my community and to stand up for what I believe in.
“Sadly, despite having a week’s notice of my intention to speak on a matter about which I feel very strongly, this has caused some of my Conservative colleagues a great deal of angst.”
He added: “In May, I was very proud to be elected to serve my community, as a Conservative councillor, and I told my community, I’d be their ‘new voice at County Hall’.
“However, if I allow myself to be suffocated by the ludicrous rules which this Conservative group evidently insist on imposing, or face “consequences” or “removal” if I do not, then my ability to serve my community as I intended, would be seriously undermined.
“Everything I say in this chamber, would have to be vetted and preapproved, and that, would be a betrayal, of the key pledge I gave to voters. And I point-blank, refuse, to do that.”
Dr Greenall said that after discussing the matter with family, friends and colleagues he had decided to leave the party but continue to serve the community as an independent.
He concluded: “In short, they don’t have to threaten to kick me out, for speaking my mind on a matter of conscience, I’ve spoken my mind and I quit.”