‘I will not pay back what I was entitled to claim’, says Flintshire councillor

Reporter:

Lois Hough

A COUNCILLOR is refusing to repay his food expenses, despite them being 15 times higher than those of any of his colleagues.

Saltney councillor Klaus Armstrong-Braun said he would not give back the £245.45 he claimed between April and June this year, despite an official order to do so.

Councillors will have to pay for their own meals at Flintshire's County Hall from now on after a decisive vote at a special council meeting.

A ban on claiming subsistence allowance for meals in Flintshire Council facilities will officially come into force next April but councillors also voted overwhelmingly to backdate the ban to April 2010 and repay what they have already claimed since then.

Cllr Armstrong-Braun said a legal loophole means he does not have to repay the money.

He added: “You do not have to repay money retrospectively so I am not going to pay it back.

“There is no law for the council to try to recover the money. They can take me to court because I’m not paying it.”

The councillor said he did not understand the fuss over his claim.

He added: “I come to County Hall every day and I spend most of the day here so I think I am entitled to lunch.

“You have to be here at least four hours a day to claim a lunch and hardly anybody is here for that time, but I am. Why should I pay back what I’m entitled to?”

Despite his refusal to pay up, Cllr Armstrong-Braun has been buying his own lunches since the special meeting last week.

Yesterday he enjoyed a tuna pasta dish – paid for with his own money – as he discussed the matter with the Leader.

Just two other councillors claimed subsistence allowances in the three-month period covered by the backdating process.

Queensferry councillor David Wisinger claimed £16.05 and Sealand councillor Christine Jones claimed £7.30.

Former council leader Cllr Alex Aldridge said: “Flintshire is fast becoming a laughing stock among local authorities. We are losing the focus because of people like Klaus.

“I have never been so saddened over the reputation we deliver as a council.

“We have a job to do and he does nothing to enhance the cause of the county.

“We really do need the other 69 of us to pull together and steer the ship away from this issue.”

A Flintshire Council spokesman said: “The council decided that from April 1, 2010 council members could not claim subsistence allowance for duties within Flintshire.

“We now need to establish the current extent for such approved duties and recover such payments from members.”

See full story in the Leader

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