Care expense claims: Councillors 'put off' by publicity

Carer holding hands with an elderly person
Image caption Councillors with caring responsibilities are entitled to claim up to £403 a month for extra costs

Councillors with children or elderly relatives may be reluctant to claim care expenses for fear of public criticism, a senior Powys officer said.

They can claim up to £403 a month under a scheme to encourage carers to stand for election to local authorities.

Head of democratic services Wyn Richards said the county council should publish the total paid, not details of individual claims.

There were also issues over the privacy of relatives being cared for, he said.

The Independent Remuneration Panel for Wales requires all local authorities to reimburse members with caring responsibilities for additional costs incurred while they are attending to council business.

'Lot of disquiet'

But the panel has noted in its annual reports some councillors may not be claiming the money for fear of adverse publicity.

Mr Richards told Powys's democratic services committee: "There has been a lot of disquiet going on elsewhere in Wales.

"Some members are getting comments - 'why are you claiming this?'

"And there is a discussion going on as to whether this puts people off claiming what they are entitled to receive.

"It's there for a purpose and to help people do their jobs as a councillor."

Independent member David Price said the idea of publishing the overall total was sensible.

But he asked what would happen if a member of the public submitted a freedom of information request to obtain details of claims.

Mr Richards replied: "Because of data issues that could identify dependents, we would probably refuse the request, but would give the global total."

In 2017/18, four of the 73 Powys county councillors claimed a total between them of £5,015 for dependents' allowance.

This compared to nearly £90,000 paid out to members for travel expenses.

The full council is expected to discuss the issue before deciding what details to publish for 2018/19, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

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