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County Hall chief trims credit card use after scandal
9:30am Monday 16th September 2013 in Local News
ESSEX County Council’s chief executive drastically cut back on credit card spending after the Lord Hanningfield House of Lords expenses scandal, new figures reveal.
Joanna Killian’s card purchases between January 2007 and June 2013 reveal spending plunged after former county council leader Lord Hanningfield was charged with fiddling his Westminster expenses.
In 2008, she spent £4,700, but this dropped to just £259 in 2011.
The card has only been used seven times since April 2010 – six times for train journeys and once to renew a subscription to the Local Government Chronicle.
A council spokesman said the figures reflected a change in culture at County Hall.
However, they reveal a more lavish attitude before Lord Hanningfield’s resignation as leader in February 2010.
Ms Killian, who became chief executive in September 2006, used her corporate credit card to spend more than £300 on Christmas cards.
Team trips to Colchester Zoo, meals in the House of Lords and a meal for 23 people in the United States were also charged to the card.
She said: “Since becoming chief executive,I have worked hard to ensure that more than £300million worth of savings have been made, and that the council is in a financially secure position to face the challenges in our immediate future.
“As chief executive,I attend events and meetings on council business. That is part of my job.
“I also sometimes incur expenses and these have always been subject to approval processes and are there for people to see on the council’s website.”
Essex MP Sir Bob Russell has renewed his call for an independent inquiry into expenses claims at Essex County Council.
The Lib Dem said: “I remain of the opinion there needs to be an independent inquiry into the stewardship of Essex County Council during the time Lord Hanningfield was its leader.”
Lord Hanningfield was jailed for nine months in July 2011, after being found guilty of six counts of fiddling expenses worth more than £13,000 in the House of Lords. A subsequent police inquiry into how he used an Essex County Council corporate credit card to spend nearly £300,000 on business trips abroad and expensive meals found he had no case to answer.
Talks are continuing after County Hall asked Lord Hanningfield to repay £50,689.24 of expenses it claimed were not for council business, or where no evidence had been provided.
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