Council’s Director Of Finance Explains Expenses

Director of Finance, Peter Lawrence-Roberts

The Council’s Director of Finance claimed around £18,000 in expenses last year.

Peter Lawrence-Roberts says it forms part of the package he was offered when he took the job, which earns a £70,000 salary.

A freedom of information request has revealed that Mr Lawrence-Roberts, who has a contractual arrangement allowing him to work from his mainland home for part of the week, claimed £4,158 for helicopter travel, £4,001 in mileage and over £700 in car parking fees between April 2011 and March 31st this year.

The rest of the expenses were for membership of a professional body and conference attendance. He also claimed £5,339 for accommodation on the islands.

Peter’s partner lives on St Mary’s but it’s understood he is entitled to accommodation payments for his time in Scilly, as his home base remains an address in Devon.

While there’s no suggestion that Mr Lawrence Roberts has acted unlawfully, some islanders and councillors have questioned whether these payments should continue long term.

Peter says he made it very clear before he even applied for the role in October 2007 what his circumstances were and he would not have taken the job if this hadn’t been acceptable.

It was discussed extensively at the time and offered to him as part of his contract.

Peter says he’s not that concerned about people discussing his expenses data, as he’s got nothing to hide. People are perfectly entitled to scrutinise the payments, he says, and he’d be happy to talk to anyone about the details if they contact him.

There is nothing in his contract to state that this arrangement will end or the amount of travel expenses will taper off in the future.


22 Responses to Council’s Director Of Finance Explains Expenses

  1. Islander December 29, 2012 at 7:02 am

    But has he got the council out of a sticky situation.? they must have been desperate to have him there in the first place… and like some who has been asking.
    WHO agreed on the package in the first place.. are the officers and councilors concerned going to stand up and give their reasons why. It may well be genuine.
    This is all becoming very sad. all this bickering. why dont we just leave it all to the councilors to sort out, with the rest of the mess we are in. hopefully they will all start working together,.
    from a forever hopefull islander.. who is sitting here wondering over a cup of tea, what the hell is going on here, I say dont listen to the rumours, gossip etc. if you want to know something ask the PERSONS involved!!.

    • Nobby Nobbs December 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

      The person involved was Hygate, he was the one who hired him.

      As for the councillors, there is a small cabal of around 5 councillors that will do whatever Hygate wanted (ie 22% payrises) and then there are the rest that don’t really know their arse from their elbow.
      The only two councillors worth their salt in my opinion are McCarthy and Martin and perhaps Gordon for annoying the chairman of the standards committee by asking lots of annoying questions.

  2. Nobby Nobbs December 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    £18,000 a year in travel Expenses!!!!!!!!!!

    I thought the director of finance was supposed to save us money not spend it on him self.
    I would ask why he even needs to travel to the islands, he could just as easily do his job from a laptop with an internet connection from his mainland ‘home’.

    I think its time his contract was re-written or he was asked to leave and someone else is employed in his place but on a much tighter salary.

    £70,000 + £18,000 just for bean counting, I’m in the wrong job

    • Mike Brown December 31, 2012 at 9:50 am

      Don’t forget that there is also a £15,000+ contribution to his pension that we pay every year.

  3. Jenny Green December 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Without knowing the ins and outs, this seems wrong for the tax payer. If someone is employed for their professional qualification, then is it not, the employee’s responsibility to pay for their annual fees, otherwise, they are not qualified to the position they apply for, or work for in that role.
    Who pays for other salaried work force employees who are required to maintain an annual registration?
    Is Mr PLR the only employee on the I.O.S Council pay roll who appears to have such a favourable expenses agreement?

  4. Ro December 27, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Deeply saddened, disappointed and disillusioned yet again… and the sodding captcha code is a pita to get right!

  5. Cassandra December 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Peter Lawrence-Roberts has the ACA qualification so I guess the membership fees claimed on expenses are for the Institute of Chartered Accountants which has a current annual fee of £320. I would be very interested to hear more about the conference, which based on Granny Weatherwax’s analsysis, cost over £3,600.

  6. Mike Brown December 27, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I wonder how many councillors knew the details of this generous package before it was agreed. None I suspect. Whoever agreed it should be suspended!!

    Just five councillors voted through 18 to 20% pay rises to all of the chief officers in 2010. PLR when quizzed said that the extra spend (over £100,000pa) would be found from within existing budgets.

    In November 2011 Iain McCulloch said that estimates made by the finance department show that in 2013/14 the council deficit could be anywhere between £174,000 at best and £451,000 in the worst case.

    If we dispensed with a Chief exec and shared a director of finance with another authority we would save at least £200,000pa. Why must we continue to waste money that we simply don’t have?

    • Cassandra December 27, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      I agree with the (very limited) sharing of a Director of Finance, possibly in conjunction with an expansion of Iain McCulloch’s role together with a bit more money for him.

  7. Bill Hiner December 26, 2012 at 10:54 pm

    I wonder what the “Professional Body” is? I think we are entitled to know, as we pay for it, and has the validity of said membership been endorsed?

  8. Jenny Green December 25, 2012 at 11:40 pm

    Who agreed to the package and why, when were the agreed review dates, surely this was not an open ended agreement? Was the post advertised nationally and appropraite recruitment procedure used to appoint the apllicant? Was/is the arrangement Best Value?
    Is PLR the only I.O.S Council employer receiving these large expenses ? Are there other Council employees with similar expense packages and how are these being monitored and reviewed?
    There is a recent inclusion to the I.O.S Council team- seconded for a period of time to take the pressure away from another Council Officer.
    How is this being funded? Flights, accommodation, petrol expenses, parking, meals and wages. These costs will soon add up to the same as Mr PLR is receiving and the latter arrangment was not advertised or even discussed by the Councillors before the arrangement was signed and sealed.
    Best Practice and Transparancy, where is the evidence for this.

  9. Islander December 25, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Ask the chief officer and a couple of the councilors. ?

  10. Afraid to put my name December 25, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Don’t grumble, stand for election in May.

    • Kev Wright December 26, 2012 at 1:46 pm

      I very much doubt the elected members had much say in this. It was done from the top. *Someone* had made a mess of the accounts and the Audit Office were all over them. So *someone* had to get their failing fixed very quickly, whatever the cost. Looks like PLR managed to do this, although it should NEVER have come to this in the first place.

  11. Pat Hayden December 25, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    David Laws was castigated for claiming expenses on the house he shared with his partner and he lost his cabinet post as a result. How is this case any different?

  12. Granny Weatherwax December 25, 2012 at 12:52 pm

    Just doing the sums here:

    £4158 Helicopter Travel, £4001 mileage, £700 car parking fees, £5339 in accommodation expenses come to £14198. That leaves nearly £4000 for conference attendance and membership of a professional body.?!?!

    No wonder the tax payer is fed up with these ridiculous salaries and expenses claims.

    I think we get very little value for money from the top 5 or 6 salaried positions as a tax payer, they could be done from Cornwall CC or centrally.

  13. Pat Hayden December 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    I think we all need to know who negotiated such a package, who agreed to support it, and why.

  14. IanT December 24, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    The £700+ for car parking seems strange to me. What car and where? I hope receipts were produced for all the expenses. The international company I worked for would only exceptionally pay up for anything without a receipt but I suppose that is why they remain one of the most successful and stable companies in the world.

  15. Cassandra December 24, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Peter Lawrence-Roberts was appointed at a time when the Council’s accounts department was in dire straits over audit failures and the consequent criticism from the Audit Commission. It also faced the task of making the change from cash accounting to the accruals basis which also brought with it the need to value the Council’s assets for accounting purposes for the first time.

    The obvious solution for the Council, who frankly had the frighteners put on them, was to appoint Lawrence-Roberts regardless of the cost. He had the benefit of being ex Audit Commission and, in particular, having been the manager on the Council’s audit. Appointing him would make it very difficult to show that the Council had been negligent in any way. The ridiculous expenses arrangement Lawrence-Roberts has been allowed to get away with simply reflects the Council’s desperation and poor decision making.

    The Council’s accounting problems are now largely resolved and the switch to the accruals basis has been made (at huge cost to taxpayers). Consequently there is absolutely no need (if there ever was) for a tiny Council to have such a top-heavy and expensive structure in its accounts department. It’s time for a major review followed by the cuts that are necessary.

  16. Bill Hiner December 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I refuse to accept that there is not a suitably qualified number cruncher living on the islands who would be willing to do the same job for 40-50k!
    Is it not time that the contracts of such high earners were closely scrutinised and re-written, so that we, as tax-payers got REAL value for money in the future?
    The more I hear about the amount of money that a chosen few receive over here, compared to the vast majority, it becomes almost disrespectful.

  17. Kev Wright December 24, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    It’s a totally unacceptable situation that someone can claim in expenses per week more than many people in Scilly earn in a week. PLR isn’t to blame though, I’m sure many people would snap up a job offer like that thankyouverymuch! It’s whoever allowed this offer to be made in the first place that has made a gross error of judgement. I can only assume that was Mr Hygate, a man well versed in the techniques used to become overpaid. As I’m sure we’ll see if and when he gets his payoff and laughs all the way to the bank at our expense.

  18. Jenny Green December 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    This may be the season of good will to all men- but £350.00 per week expenses is unacceptable, especially from a small council.
    I can’t believe MR PLR claims for living with his partner on the Isles, can we all try this one. I hope his partner does not claim single person’s Council tax reduction. That would really be taking the p-ss.
    All contracts of employment can be reviewed, at any time by an employer. Moreso, in this example, as the CEO may be leaving his post. An opportunity to review what senior posts are required at the I.O.S Council is long over due. Who else employed by our council is getting such over the top expenses and who negociated such an employment package?