#expensesgate: They gagged her but here’s what Wisbech councillor would have told fellow Fenland councillors

PUBLISHED: 20:55 22 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:55 23 February 2018

Councillor Simon King sitting pensively as Cllr Virginia Bucknor alludes to #expensesgate :  Photo: Harry Rutter

Councillor Simon King sitting pensively as Cllr Virginia Bucknor alludes to #expensesgate : Photo: Harry Rutter

Archant

Wisbech councillor Virginia Bucknor called today for an investigation into all councillors’ expenses to ensure allegations against a fellow councillor “are not the tip of an iceberg”.

Councillor Virginia Bucknor rises to her feet to address the issue of #expensesgate. She was gagged but later released her speech  Photo: Harry RutterCouncillor Virginia Bucknor rises to her feet to address the issue of #expensesgate. She was gagged but later released her speech Photo: Harry Rutter

Her comments were contained within a speech she was blocked from making during a Fenland Council meeting today but which she released afterwards.

At least three times Cllr Bucknor tried to get her points over but each time was ordered to stay silent by council chairman Kay Mayor who had taken legal advice from officers sat next to her.

Cllr Bucknor insisted her comments were not directly aimed at Councillor Simon King – now the subject of a conduct committee hearing – but were a general warning to all councillors to ensure their expenses claims were squeaky clean.

“Are you as concerned as we are at the damaging reputation for all Fenland councillors regarding the possible misuse of travel expense claims?” she tried to ask new leader Chris Seaton.

Fenland council chairman Kay Mayor intervenes to stop Cllr Virginia Bucknor's comments about councillors' expenses. Chief executive Paul Medd helps to guide the chairman in her task. PHOTO: Harry RutterFenland council chairman Kay Mayor intervenes to stop Cllr Virginia Bucknor's comments about councillors' expenses. Chief executive Paul Medd helps to guide the chairman in her task. PHOTO: Harry Rutter

“Are you also aware that across social media we are ‘all the same’ just doing it ‘to feather our own nests’?

“So whatever the outcome of the conduct committee may I ask that the travel expenses of all councillors who are both district and county council members are examined?”.

She said she wanted to be satisfied “as I’m sure the public does and other district councillors that this is not the tip of an iceberg”.

She said the checks would make it clear that the council was not simply targeting one particular council.

Cllr King, who sat listening to Cllr Bucknor attempt to make her speech, had said earlier that “over the last eight years some claims have been accepted and at other times similar claims have not.

“In researching these claims I have found at least one meeting I attended and never claimed for.”

He said one meeting he claimed for but never attended was a “simple mistake” and the other he couldn’t recall.

“All of the other mileage I claimed was in accordance with the claim form and policy and was checked and generally paid by officers,” he said.

He said he only became aware last November of the Google maps requirement to check miles travelled “.so it cannot be right to blame me for claims I made before officers invented this ‘policy’.

“I do not believe it is arrogance to insist that policies can only be made by councillors and not officers.”

Tonight it was revealed that the conduct hearing against him has been postponed while the council studies a complaint he has made against them.

He said the investigation into his expenses was “a flawed process and baseless allegations have seriously damaged my reputation.”

He added: “The redress I expect from Fenland District Council is to purchase the front page of both local papers to print an apology and retraction. I also require reimbursement of all the expenses I have necessarily incurred both now and until this matter is concluded, to be reimbursed.”

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