University councillors’ expenses turnaround

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CITY councillors have been forced to rethink their travel expenses after an independent panel criticised their decision.

Councillors agreed last November to approve a proposal which meant councillors who are also university students could have their travel expenses reimbursed for travel back to the Lancaster district from their home towns.

The move meant they would be paid the lowest rate of either mileage or train travel at times when they do not have a permanent residence in the city.

The decision was valid for full council meetings only.

However, the decision was slammed by the Independent Remuneration Panel, who had recommended the council only pay expenses from within the district.

They believed the decision was open to abuse if future councillors moved abroad.

At a recent full council meeting, councillors re-examined the issue, agreeing that travel must start from an address within the district.

However, for full council meetings which fall during the summer holidays, travel from an address within the UK mainland will be reimbursed to an elected member for the University ward who is registered as a full-time student and who does not at the time of the meeting have an address within the administrative area of the council.

Couns Jonathan Dixon and Paul Aitchison – both Labour councillors for University ward in their second year at Lancaster University – would travel from Chesterfield and the Wirral respectively.

Coun Aitchison said he was happy with the change.

“This is what we wanted all along,” he said. “It was right to be brought back to the council because the loophole could have cost the council a lot of money and I am pleased that the council made this decision.”