Cornwall councillors claimed nearly £2 million in allowances last year – including one claim of more than £7,000 for childcare

Posted By on 4th October 2023

By Julia Penhaligon

Newquay councillor and Cornwall Council cabinet member Louis Gardner cost taxpayers nearly £50,000 in allowances last year, according to data which County Hall has still not published officially.

Councillor Gardner not only claimed the most for travel and subsistence - £6,028.25 – he also got taxpayers to pay for his childcare, charging £7,207.75.

A draft “league table” of how much each councillor costs was circulated last week and should have been published on Monday (2nd October.)  The council’s website has still not been updated.

Council leader Linda Taylor cost £48,090.50 but councillor Gardner, the economy portfolio holder, was only just behind on £47,834.84.

The total cost to the public purse for all 87 councillors was nearly £2 million.

In 2019, when in Opposition, Cornwall’s Conservatives gleefully leaked details of the expenses claimed by then council leader Adam Paynter.  Now councillor Gardner’s claims have put the Tories on the back foot.

“He’s going to be known as Greedy Gardner,” said one Conservative councillor.  “There is no way you can justify this.”

Over the weekend, councillor Gardner sought to “get his retaliation in first” claiming on social media that he was Cornwall’s hardest-working local politician.

Only three councillors have asked taxpayers to finance their care needs.  But councillor Gardner’s claim, which provides for his two-year-old son, stands out.

Typically a “carer’s allowance” is paid to councillors who have unusual family circumstances, possibly needing to care for elderly relatives who are in poor health.

The Local Government Association, which advocates for higher allowances for people who stand for election to councils, says:  “many local authorities include provision for the payment of a care allowance to members with dependents.  However, there is to be very little consistency in what is provided, how it can be claimed or what level of payment is made, and a small number of authorities make no payment at all or make it only in very limited circumstances.”

Mebyon Kernow councillor Loveday Jenkin claimed £276 in carer’s allowances while another Conservative, Nick Craker, claimed just £60.  Councillor Gardner’s £7,205.75 sets a precedent which many younger councillors, who also have small children, might now be tempted to emulate.

“Louis is milking the system,” said another Tory councillor.  “This is pretty shabby.  If we all did this the council would quickly find itself subject to a government investigation.”

Councillor Gardner’s claim to be hardworking does have merit.  There is hardly a County Hall press release which does not have a photograph of him opening something or shaking hands with somebody.  Whether he is effective or not is, however, hotly disputed – even by his own side.

Councillor Gardner’s personal business woes have also embarrassed the ruling Tory group, with some members of the opinion that he should not hold the economy portfolio and sit astride the government’s £132 million Shared Prosperity Fund.

Councillor Gardner has told reporters that his “carer’s allowance” claims will stop once his son is old enough to start school.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Surely Council Leader, Linda Taylor, must now appreciate that Cllr Gardner risks becoming a liability to the Tory image of probity and sound management. Indeed is he a fit person to remain a Cabinet member? This is, of course, is a question solely for Cllr Taylor to decide. However the reputation of their local Council must have some effect on Cornwall’s MPs’ General Election prospects.

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