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New Lord Hanningfield expenses revealed
10:00am Wednesday 20th March 2013 in Echo News
A FRESH £75,000 of “staggering” expenses claimed by disgraced peer Lord Hanningfield and his staff have been revealed for the first time.
Essex County Council has released details of the spending on credit cards belonging to the former leader’s personal helpers during his time at County Hall - including expensive trips to fancy restaurants, political conferences and the Caribbean.
The new figures also include £4,760 in bar and hospitality bills which were run up at the House of Lords and then charged to Essex taxpayers.
Mike Mackrory, the leader of the county council’s Liberal Democrat group, said he was “stunned” by the new scandal.
He said: “To suddenly have £70,000 of extra expenses unveiled is frankly quite staggering.
“I am stunned. Any reasonable person looking at them would say 60 per cent - at least - are not legitimate.
“It is outrageous that this was allowed to go on and that nobody stepped in to stop it.”
Lord Hanningfield was found guilty of fiddling his Parliamentary expenses and jailed for nine months in 2011.
He served nine weeks, but just five days after being released was re-arrested by police investigating his claims while leader of the county council.
The investigation was later dropped without action and, last month, Essex Police was told to pay the peer £3,500 in damages for unlawfully swooping on him in a “dawn raid”.
However, details of his council expenses - which totalled £286,938 between 2005 and 2010, including 62 overseas trips - prompted public outrage when they were published last year. The latest figures comprise credit card logs of staff who directly worked for the council leader’s office between June 2007 and March 2012.
They include a £5,200 trip to the Caribbean in November 2009 for a unnamed councillor and officer, and a £2,400 bill for hotel rooms during the Tory party conference in Manchester in October 2009 - both while Lord Hanningfield was in charge.
An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “As part of our promise to be open and transparent about the time Lord Hanningfield spent at the council we have released information relating to him and his office.
"This does not mean that any of the transactions were inappropriate. Policies and processes were in place and these have now been strengthened.
"The council has been attempting to negotiate with Lord Hanningfield regarding the amount that the authority feels is appropriate he pay back."