Council leader defends criticism over expenses claims

David Parker: "I make no claims directly so therefore have no claim forms to publish"
David Parker: "I make no claims directly so therefore have no claim forms to publish"

The 34 elected members of Scottish Borders Council receive around £80,000 in travel expenses each year.

And a monthly update of each item of such expenditure is published on the council’s website under the names of 33 of these councillors. The one exception is council leader David Parker.

At last week’s council meeting Conservative opposition councillor Gavin Logan incurred the wrath of some members of Mr Parker’s ruling administration by demanding to know, in a written question, why the leader’s expenses were not itemised online for public scrutiny.

Mr Parker said he was disappointed Mr Logan had made no attempt to contact officers of the council before submitting his question.

He added: “I have been advised it is debateable whether I require to answer this question, as it may not be competent under Standing Orders. However, in a spirit of openness and transparency I am happy to do so.”

His demeanour, however, suggested he was far from happy. “Councillors’ expenses claim forms are published on the website,” said Mr Parker. “In fact, I make no claims directly so therefore have no claim forms to publish.

“As you may have noticed, I am visually impaired and, because of my disability, particular arrangements require to be made to allow me to undertake my duties.

“These, of course, constitute reasonable adjustments in terms of the Equality Act. Therefore, staff are made available to drive me to meetings and I use taxis where appropriate. These costs are properly accounted for.”

Mr Logan, unbowed by cries of “shame” and “disgrace” from the administration benches as he rose to respond, said: “I must declare and have published every journey I make and I think the same rule should apply to everyone, including Mr Parker.”

After the meeting, Mr Logan was unrepentant.

“The fact is that I did make an attempt to consult officers before submitting my question and was told that a taxi company sent in regular invoices in respect of Mr Parker’s journeys, so the information is out there, it’s just not made public,” he said.