EXPENSES Essex County Council are set to be changed

EXPENSES rules at Essex County Council are set to be changed in the wake of alleged abuses by its former leader.

Until now, the leader or councillor responsible for finance have been able to approve additional expenses not included on an accepted list.

However, it is proposed they will be decided by a committee in future, following former leader Lord Hanningfield’s conviction for fiddling his House of Lords expenses.

His County Hall expenses are also now being investigated by Essex Police.

A report on the changes will be presented to the full council today.

If the changes are agreed, members with still be automatically reimbursed for approved duties laid down in the council constitution.

But activities not specifically identified in the list will require approval by a new committee.

These include where the expense involves foreign travel, where the total cost for a member is more than £500, or where the aggregate cost for all members claiming exceeds £1,000.

The report, expected to be agreed, states: “It needs to be clear the member is seeking approval for the duty, not for undertaking the travel.

“If the duty is approved, the member is able to be reimbursed for the expense of undertaking that duty within the terms set out in the allowance scheme.

“In the interests of transparency and clarity it is proposed in future this approval is sought from a committee of the council.

“It is further proposed this arrangement should also include approving overseas travel by officers.”

Any new committee will include the leader, deputy leader, two other members of the controlling party and one of the opposition.

Lord Hanningfield was convicted of six counts of false accounting totalling £14,000.

Essex Police’s serious economic crime unit is investigating allegations he abused the system while heading Essex County Council after the council passed evidence to the police.

Lord Hanningfield is serving nine months in jail