Edinburgh politician under fire for claiming £2.40 expenses for bike commute

Criticism speaks volumes for mainstream press attitudes towards cycling

by Simon_MacMichael   January 4, 2011  

Edinburgh © Simon MacMichael.jpg

A councillor in Edinburgh has been criticised for legally claiming £2.40 on expenses for a 12-mile return trip from his home to the Scottish capital’s City Chambers. In an article that says much of the mainstream media’s attitudes towards cycling, the Evening News didn’t seem to see anything untoward in the same councilor claiming back money for other trips made by car at twice the mileage rate.

According to the Edinburgh Evening News, 73-year-old Conservative councillor Alastair Paisley is believed to be the only local politician in Edinburgh ever to have claimed back mileage for a journey undertaken by bicycle. With council rules allowing for 20p per mile to be claimed, Paisley “charged the taxpayer” (in the newspaper’s words) for the 12-mile return journey from his home to City Chambers in May last year.

The paper points out that had Mr Paisley claimed that rate every working day for a year, “his journeys would cost the taxpayer almost £550,” although that ignores the fact that even when using his car, Councillor Paisley didn’t claim for every journey he made. In fact, with Mr Paisley claiming 40p a mile for using his car for all other trips he was claiming for, his total expenses for the year came out at £280.80, half the total the newspaper predicts he may have been to claim for riding his bike.

A graphic in the newspaper suggests that Edinburgh councilors have collectively claimed more than £19,000 in expenses during 2010, many of them receiving higher amounts than Councillor Paisley, yet it is his £2.40 claim for using his bike that has seen him come under fire – the implication, perhaps, being that a bicycle can’t be viewed as a legitimate form of transport in the same way as a car is.

Speaking to the Evening News about the £2.40 cycle mileage claim, Councillor Paisley said: "I claimed it back because I was entitled to. I have to have a specific reason to claim it back, like a committee meeting. If I just cycle in to do a bit of work then head off again I don't claim for that.”

He continued: “I would hope that people younger and fitter than me would cycle in too. [Tory councillor] Cameron Rose cycles every day but he's only going across the Meadows so I don't think he claims it back. 



"But if, like me, you live six miles across the city and you're entitled to claim it, then claim it. It is shown in the [expenses rules] book that I can claim 20p a mile, so why not? 



"I'm 73, I have angina, I'm type two diabetic and I cycle because I'm told I should,” he added.

“But to get in for nine, cycling is a bit of a struggle, so I drive then and claim back mileage. Why shouldn't I for cycling? I charge what I have to charge and I'm not in the least bit bothered," he concluded.

The newspaper added that Edinburgh City Council expenses claims are governed by rules establishes in 2007 by the Scottish Governing, and that Councillor Paisley’s claims for cycle mileage had the support of his fellow councilors.

15 user comments

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You can imagine the roasting he'd have got if he'd have said that he actually enjoyed the cycle.. Sad. Sad

DaveP's picture

posted by DaveP [467 posts]
4th January 2011 - 13:23

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It's important to bear in mind here that the Evening News is a piece of toilet paper even when compared with other Scottish rags (Yes, Daily Record! I'm looking at you.)

Giving them any more attention than making sure you tear off a big enough piece to wipe the sh*t off your shoe is being overly-generous.

posted by mad_scot_rider [535 posts]
4th January 2011 - 14:04

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He didn't cost them 20p a mile, he SAVED them 20p a mile by not driving.

I once cycled 40 miles over two days to a course for work (10 miles each way), so claimed the mileage back. The mileage expense form didn't actually allow for this, so I had to write all over it, but the finance department were perfectly happy to process it, and I eventually received my £8.

posted by graemeshaw [20 posts]
4th January 2011 - 14:52

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I'm not sure how they get away with it but my Council, Stoke-on-Trent, pays some of it's councillors over a £1/mile. Now when I was working we were told that £0.40/mile was the maximum that the company could allow for mileage without attracting large Tax expenses, so not sure how the council get away with it. Or maybe they just pay massive tax too, it's not like the council were in financial difficulties even before the ConDem alliance got their mitts on to the budget.

Whoever wrote this article, his/her editor and the paper only should be publicly flogged, preferably with a bike chain. Totally unbelievable reporting, even more Daily Mail than the Mail.

Uckers!

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [385 posts]
4th January 2011 - 15:59

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Here you go, a report from my local paper on Council Mileage expenses

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/163-1-9M-FUEL-CLAIM-FACES-CUT/...

Wonder what the people/reporters of Edinburgh would think of this?

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [385 posts]
4th January 2011 - 16:06

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Wow! £1.06/mile!!!

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posted by Tony Farrelly [4131 posts]
4th January 2011 - 16:11

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It seems to be a standard rate for companies to pay 40p mile on expenses however the actual cost per mile (taking into account wear and tear) has to be much greater than that.

20p a mile would be good value with a cheap bike, however I imagine most people on this site have spent more money on their bike than their car!

It must have been a slow news day if 20p a mile bothered them that much...

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
4th January 2011 - 19:40

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Many people think cycling is "free" i.e. it costs nothing to run a bike.
They assume bcause there is no petrol and vehicle excise duty to pay, there are no other costs. No doubt that's behind the story.

We, and the expenses committee who agreed the allowance, know it costs to run a bike.

Binky

posted by davebinks [123 posts]
4th January 2011 - 19:50

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What a complete load of nonsense! One would have thought they would praise him for saving money (by only charging the bike mileage rate instead of the car mileage rate)and criticise the others for not doing the same (not to mention the environmental and health benefits)!

The HMRC rules are also crazy - to pay an employee more than 40p per mile involves complicating their tax returns and either the employee being taxed on this as a perk or the employer paying the tax incurred. Whilst I sympathise (because 40p/mile does not cover the cost of running the car) with employees who have to use the car for work, unless HMRC put the allowable rate up (VERY unlikely), it may be best to see this as an added incentive to use the bike/public transport whenever this is feasible.

posted by SteveU [6 posts]
4th January 2011 - 20:03

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This piece also tells you everything you need to know about the way that local press covers council related stories. Everything spun and distorted to reflect as badly as possible. Angry

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posted by Rob Simmonds [251 posts]
4th January 2011 - 20:29

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Typical rag reporting, makes the DM look sane.
What boils my piss is the reporter knows the truth, but just writes it with a slant to make the councillor look bad, in the expectation that most readers will tut-tut about it in their ignorance of the real cost of running a bicycle. These slimy, dishonest, untrustworthy writers of crap should be taken down a back alley and run over again and again with a cheap BSO.
Can you tell I don't like local rag reporters?

posted by Cauld Lubter [117 posts]
4th January 2011 - 22:10

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40p per mile mught not cover the cost of running some cars, but it seems *reasonable* to me. If people want to run more expensive cars then fine, but shouldn't expect not to pay the difference themselves (or at least be taxed on the difference).

And of course it goes down to 25ppm after the first 4,000 miles per year. Of course you might say that there is a small disincentive to using a car, and that there is a small incentive to using a bike for 20ppm. But that's a good thing isn't it? Although I doubt the ppm has altered anyone's behaviour in itself, the price of petrol surely has more impact.

posted by Pessable [3 posts]
5th January 2011 - 1:46

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From the story he's claimed expenses for travel TO and FROM work, not travel for expenses whilst AT work. If it's in the rules that he can claim that fine, but if it's only supposed to be work-incurred expenses then travel by any means should be questioned. I work for a local authority and can't (and rightly so) claim for travel to and from work - does anyone else get to claim money for how they get to work?

posted by bazookajoe [4 posts]
5th January 2011 - 13:15

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bazookajoe wrote:
I work for a local authority and can't (and rightly so) claim for travel to and from work - does anyone else get to claim money for how they get to work?

Quick glance at the Scottish Government's rules suggest that the travel needs to be on specific council business eg attending Council Meeting. Fact that the meeting may also take place at the location where the councillor also has an office immaterial as far as I can see. I suppose one thing to bear in mind is that many councillors will have full-time jobs unrelated to their council duties.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7853 posts]
5th January 2011 - 14:14

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he said...

" I have to have a specific reason to claim it back, like a committee meeting. If I just cycle in to do a bit of work then head off again I don't claim for that."

and as Simon mentioned, Council work is probably not his main job, so to get in for extra meetings and such they are allowed to claim. Seems fair enough to me, they dont do it for free. Its the stupid claims like duck houses that we should be shouting about, much of what gets plastered about the papers is perfectly fine if you catually realise what/how there work is organised.

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posted by STATO [409 posts]
5th January 2011 - 17:26

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