Council officer’s gravy train derailed

PUBLISHED: 16:50 10 October 2012

Two senior council officers are to pay back hundreds of pounds after claiming for first class train tickets to a conference just a two hour ride from their offices.

Childrens services director Isobel Cattermole and her deputy Anne Canning claimed £855 to attend a conference in Manchester in July, but are now having to repay the difference between the cost of the tickets and the cheapest available fare.

The council initially tried to justify the outlay by saying that officers required flexibility in their travel arrangements.

However, it later confirmed the two officers, who each earn more than £100,000, would be forced to pay the difference back - a total which could run into hundreds of pounds.

“In instances where officers incur expenses in excess of the lowest available fare, they are duty bound to reimburse the council the outstanding balance”, a spokeswoman said. “This is exactly what has happened in the instance of the two officers cited.”

The climbdown follows sustained pressure from opposition figures, who claim the episode is symptomatic of the council’s attitude to the public purse.

Labour group leader Joshua Peck said: “Nobody working in a council should be travelling first class.

“There’s so much wasteful spending and profligacy at a time when council finances are in an absolute wreck.”

Tory group leader Peter Golds added: “If there hadn’t been this story in the first place, it begs the question of whether ansything would have been done.”

Tower Hamlets council refused to disclose how much the officers would have to repay, but standard open returns coinciding with the conference’s timetable can be purchased for £74 each - £350 less than the sum charged by the officers.

The council also refused to say whether the two officers, who earn more than £100,000 per year, volunteered to repay the cash, and when the decision was taken.

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