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 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.