Mayor savaged over claims for tights and charity raffles

A FORMER civic mayor has been savaged by her elected counterpart after paperwork emerged showing how she claimed expenses to cover donations made in church collection plates and charity raffles.

Peter Davies described Councillor Eva Hughes’ claims as “outrageous”, also highlighting her purchase of a pair of ladies tights and “excessive hospitality” including a bill for £36 worth of Marks & Spencer biscuits in one day.

Mr Davies, an English Democrat who was elected Doncaster’s mayor in 2009 is in charge of the council and policy, while a civic mayor is appointed each year to act as a ceremonial figurehead.

The civic mayor wears the council’s mayoral chain and attends functions on behalf of the authority, including borough engagements and events hosted by civic mayors elsewhere in the region.

But Mr Davies claimed expenses submitted by Coun Hughes, a Labour member, showed the role was a “piece of political self-indulgence the people of Doncaster can well do without”.

Expenses claims made by Coun Hughes, whose term of office ended in May, were laid bare after a change in the rules over allowances, enforced on April 1 this year.

Previously, the ceremonial role attracted an allowance of £17,990, which was a “special responsibilty allowance” that also covered “incidental expenses” and the detail of claims by previous mayors was never made public. The allowance was reduced in line with those for other councillors to £12,000 in April, as part of efforts to reduce spending in the face of Government cuts.

As part of the change, drawn up by Doncaster Council’s independent remuneration panel, expenses claimed by the civic mayor had to be claimed separately, in order to be “subject to scrutiny”.

The resulting breakdown shows that between April 4 and May 13 Coun Hughes claimed £791.07 – including £10 for the collection plate at Doncaster Minster’s St George’s Day service.

She also claimed for clothes and shoes worth nearly £260 from shops including Marks & Spencer on April 18, exactly a month before her term of office ended.

Mr Davies, whose allowance is £48,000 a year, said the figures showed that, including office staff, the civic mayor cost Doncaster more than £150,000 last year.

“Claims for underwear, raffle tickets and, most scandalously, for reimbursement for donations to church collections, are utterly disgraceful,” he added. “Coming against the backdrop of increasingly vicious Government cuts, this only serves to reopen the debate as to whether Doncaster needs or can afford the whole panoply of a civic mayor.”

Mr Davies is one of 16 elected mayors in England and a referedum on his role was held in May this year in which the position was endorsed by the borough’s voters.

He said the civic mayor’s position had not received such approval. Elected mayors were rejected in referenda in Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford in May.

Mr Davies’ indignation comes, however, after recently published figures revealed other councils spent more on mayors.

The bill for the Leeds civic mayor last year was more than £300,000, while in Sheffield the cost was around £176,000. In York it was £139,000 and in Kirklees £173,000.

After being contacted by the Yorkshire Post yesterday, Coun Hughes sent an email which said she had not seen the detail of Mr Davies’s criticism and was unavailable to comment.

A spokesman for Doncaster Council said its chief executive Jo Miller was not prepared to comment on a “political issue”.

It is understood the civic mayor, Labour’s Coun Christine Mills, has not claimed expenses since she took over in May.