Cllr Paul Bettison racks up thousands of pounds in council phone bills

Published: 21 Aug 2013 17:008 comments

BRACKNELL Forest Council's leader claimed nearly 30,000 pounds in phone bills in five years, it has been revealed.

BRACKNELL Forest Council's leader claimed nearly £30,000 in phone bills in five years, it has been revealed.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act showed that Cllr Paul Bettison claimed £29,336.97 from the council between April 2004 and August 2009.

These payments - up to £5,400 a year - were made to his company Bettison Associates Ltd to recompense him for council-related phone calls on a non-council phone.

He was given a council phone in 2009 but the bills still came to £2,100 last year.

Martin Wood, 48, from Hanworth, submitted the FOI request for council payments to Bettison Associates Ltd after reading the News's previous stories about Cllr Betti-son's expenses for 2012-13.

Mr Wood said of the figures: "I just think it's outstanding! It's nearly £30,000 in six years.

He added as a public figure, Cllr Bettison needs to be held to account. "I'd love to see what the public reaction is to this," he said. "People may call me nosy looking into this man's life but he's in the limelight and I think it needs to be known."

The council's FOI team told Mr Wood that there was no information available prior to April 1, 2003.

In its response, the Information Compliance Team said: "All payments made to Bettison Associates Ltd in the period 1 April 2004 to August 2009 are repayment of the costs incurred in making phone calls on a non-council phone that were directly related to fulfilling the duties of Leader of Bracknell Forest Council. From August 2009, a council phone was provided and no payments have been made since that date."

Payments made (including VAT) were:

l 2003-04 - None

l 2004-05 - £8,252.88 (£3,373.64 of this figure related to costs for 2003-04)

l 2005-06 -£5,280.84

l 2006-07 -£5,464.56

l 2007-08 -£3,524.16

l 2008-09 -£5,360.06

l 2009-10 -£1,454.47 (April to August 2009)

Asked why the cost for 2004-9 had been so high and there had not been a council phone before 2009, Bracknell Forest Council said in a statement: "Mobile phone charges have changed and reduced significantly over the past decade, as have fees for data roaming and online support.

"Cllr Bettison, as leader of the council, has to receive and make many thousands of phone calls every year for the council, the Local Government Association, to MPs, borough residents and electors in his own ward, and this across all seven days of the week.

"Prior to the council's phone supplier being able to offer another option in 2009, and rather than expecting him to carry around and juggle two or more phones, it was efficient and sensible for Cllr Bettison to continue using the phone and number he already had, his business phone, with the council reimbursing charges for council-related calls."

When the News put it to the council that some taxpayers may consider that a large amount of money had been wasted, it said: "To say 'large amounts wasted' is, at the very best, uninformed speculation."

It confirmed Cllr Bettison's council phone bill for April 2012-March 2013 was £2,136.17.

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  • DodgyNews
    73 posts
    Aug 22, 13:06
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    This is an absolute disgrace. I would like to know if Freedom of Information can extend to the statements for these phone bills being released in their entirety, as running up bills in their thousands of pounds is utterly unacceptable. How dare this man spend public money in this way? All the major mobile networks now offer (and have offered for quite some time) tariffs that are designed for high users, and companies such as O2 and Vodafone will usually offer unlimited mobile and landline calls for around £40-£45 a month. Of course, when someone else is footing the bill (like the tax payer), perhaps a little common sense goes out the window – easy come, easy go!

    The comment: To say 'large amounts wasted' is, at the very best, uninformed speculation" is appalling - Well Mr Bettison; can you please release details of the types of calls you were making to generate bills in their thousands of pounds and let the public, who pay your salary and your ridiculous costs, make a judgement for you, seeing as it was they who were covering these charges? As a teacher, I quite regularly have to make work-related calls from my home phone or mobile of an evening, and am sadly not in a position to charge them to the tax-payer, but seeing as you are, I hope this isn’t too much of a demand.

    If his brain did not comprehend that mobile phone bills in their thousands was likely somewhat excessive, this man likely shouldn’t be in the job. This matter should be taken a lot further, and I hope someone puts in an application under Freedom of Information for the other expenses Bettison has charged to the public over the past five or six years, and how he’s run up these types of bills is properly and fully investigated.

    Recommend?   Yes 25     No 0

  • Forester
    36 posts
    Aug 22, 15:13
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    So our council leader charges his food, phone calls and other expenses in unlikely proportions and expects local residents to pick up the tab. He makes claims to a 120 hour working week (as if) and yet seemingly cannot manage a phone tariff.

    Bracknell's residents deserve better than Bettison.

    Recommend?   Yes 23     No 0

  • chuckmeat
    34 posts
    Aug 23, 15:40
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    He is just one of many examples of greedy public figures feeding at trough of public money. They make me sick.

    Recommend?   Yes 15     No 1

  • Disgruntled
    3 posts
    Aug 25, 17:30
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    This supposedly clever man (sic) is on wages akin to the Prime Ministers, yet as 'clever' as he is he hasn't heard of Skype? Even my grandchildren (on £5 a week)

    know that you can even get Skype on your mobile Mr Bettison

    Recommend?   Yes 13     No 0

  • Disgruntled
    3 posts
    Aug 25, 21:18
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    P.S. Ref Paul Bettison. We're paying over the odds for his phone calls BUT, how much is he claiming for pies. He sure looks like he's eaten them all.

    Recommend?   Yes 10     No 0

  • minister
    1 post
    Aug 26, 19:12
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    Has anyone ever tried to call Bracknell Forest and been put on hold? As we have clearly had to pay for Mr Bettisons excessive use of his telephone, perhaps he would like to clear a way for the ordinary folk of Bracknell to claim back the costs of their calls whilst they are put on hold or put through to the wrong department/person! I quite agree with the comments that he may perhaps allow his phone bills to be published under FOI

    Recommend?   Yes 9     No 0

  • DoctorPain
    7 posts
    Sep 12, 16:54
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    This guy is the epitome of why the public no longer have any trust in those that are apparently supposed to be running our country and councils.

    £5,000 a year on mobile phone calls is disgusting. As per the previous "scandal" over the massive expenses he is claiming for food, it is his duty to minimise the costs he incurs in performing his role as the leader of the council, I think we can safely say on this point alone he has failed.

    Greedy fatcat just about sums it up, making the most of the public money !

    No-one, and I mean no-one, in a private company would be allowed to run up expenses of that sort (whether on food or phones) without a very good business reason !!

    Recommend?   Yes 2     No 0

  • BruceDenney
    111 posts
    Jan 29, 07:15
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    Premium rate phone numbers?

    Recommend?   Yes 1     No 0