£10,000 travel expenses bill for Leeds councillors

Councillors in Leeds claimed more than £10,000 in travel and accommodation costs last year, it has been revealed.

Leeds Civic Hall

Statistics published by Leeds City Council, via the Datamill North website, show that £10,919 was claimed by councillors for rail and air travel, as well as hotel stays, during the 2018/19 municipal year.

The council said it had procedures to keep costs to a minimum, and that travel was essential for councillors to attend certain meetings and events across the country.

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The majority of the expenses were made up of rail journeys. In total, councillors were reimbursed for 121 train journeys at a cost of £9,298.70. Individual fares varied wildly, from just £6.60 to £269.

Leeds Civic Hall

In addition to rail journeys, a total of £234.97 was claimed for two flights, while the price of 11 hotel stays came to a total of £1,385.63.

The figures also show an increase of more than £2,000 on the previous year, when £8,723.46 was claimed by members.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “In Leeds we continue to be fully open and transparent regarding members allowances, which includes travel expenses. These figures are published on a yearly basis by the council on the Data Mill North, alongside a wide range of other information and services relating to the authority.

“It is the elected role of councillors to represent the people of Leeds on a wide-range of important and strategic matters affecting the city.”

Out of all the councillors who claimed, council leader Judith Blake claimed the most amount for travel, at £4,193.38 – the vast majority of which went on rail fares.

The council spokesperson added: “In terms of Coun Blake[‘s responsibilities], it also means travelling across the country on a regular basis to advocate for Leeds in a variety of different forums and settings. This includes meeting Government ministers at Westminster, and also representing the leaders of West Yorkshire on the board of Transport for the North and being chair of Core Cities UK.

“The requirements of the member role does mean therefore that councillors will have to attend certain meetings and other events not held in Leeds. Where possible we always seek to ensure that any travel requests made to the council by members are booked in advance. All requests are subject to a strict procurement process to ensure they offer value for money. The majority of these travel costs relate to train travel, and councillors will always travel by standard class, never first class.

“Efforts are also always made to ensure tickets are kept as cheap as possible and any additional costs such as overnight stays, are kept to a minimum. To put this travel cost figure of just under £11,000 into context, the council’s net budget for 2018/2019 was £510.9m. ”