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Auditors brought in to probe KCC councillors' expenses

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Kent County Council logo

by political editor Paul Francis

Auditors are investigating some expenses claims made by county councillors amid allegations that some should not have been made, it has emerged.

Kent County Council’s auditor says he has begun an investigation after a member of the public made an official complaint about a number of members’ expenses claims, alleging they were unlawful.

County councillors were told this week that the investigation centred on complaints that some members had made duplicate claims.

The complaint has also raised issues about whether tax should have been paid on some.

Although details were not disclosed, it is understood that the complaint stems partly from claims made in relation to the use by councillors of taxis and chauffeur-driven cars.

It also involves mileage claims but no details have been provided.

District auditor Darren Wells told members of KCC’s audit and governance committee: “I have received a formal objection to the 2010-2011 Statement of Accounts.

"The objector asks me to consider whether items in the accounts are unlawful and to consider whether to report in the public interest.”

He added: “There are a number of details we have been given...the theme is around certain aspects of members’ expenses. It raises some taxation issues and raises duplication of claims which should not be there.”

A full investigation has been started which would involve questioning both councillors and officers, he said.

“I am trying to meet with senior members and I will evaluate all the information and report as I see fit.”

The complaint has meant that KCC’s accounts for the year have not been fully certified, although in his annual letter Mr Wells says the sums involved “are not material to the financial statements for 2010-2011” and have not prevented him issuing an opinion.

Auditors are required to issue public interest reports where they receive complaints about an authority’s accounts.

The outcome of the inestigation and a ruling on whether the complaint is valid is expected in January.

Expenses claims made by KCC’s 89 members in 2010-11 totalled £1.85m of which most was for allowances. Some £121,117 was paid out in mileage claims.

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