Edinburgh Council's vice finance chief claimed £1,500 for taxis including round trip to the pub and cinema
The city council’s vice finance chief has been blasted for a “flagrant misuse of taxpayers’ money” after tallying up a taxi bill of almost £1,500 including a journey to and from the pub and a round trip to a party political event.
Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, the authority’s vice convener of finance and resources, has come under fire after charging taxpayers for 80 separate trips in the space of a year including more than 50 from or to her home address. The Labour councillor, who has been selected to fight the next general election for the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency, also has a free bus pass worth £665 as well as a free parking space in the city centre.
A Labour source said: “Considering Lezley is a parliamentary candidate and vice finance convener, it’s not exactly helpful”.
City councillors have tallied up £6,524 for taxis since May 2017 – with Cllr Cameron’s bill alone making up 23 per cent of the total at £1,450.
A freedom of information request has revealed that as part of £695 spent on taxis in the 2018/19 financial year, Cllr Cameron billed taxpayers for a taxi to back home from the Barrelhouse Bar and Grill after a night out, a trip to the cinema at Fountainbridge, a return journey to the Vue cinema at the Omni Centre and a return trip to a political Labour meeting at the Jewel Social Club. Cllr Cameron also charged the public for a £10 trip which both started and ended at Cumberland Street.
Cllr Cameron said the two cinema trips were for screenings of Outlaw King and Avengers Infinity War, which she claimed to be attending on behalf of Film Edinburgh, connected to her council role.
She added: “I’ll repay the personal trips. I will use a taxi if I’m running later or if I’m asked at short short notice to sub for a colleague. I don’t know how personal ones have ended up on there.
“I’m one of the busiest councillors and I have a lot of meetings across the city both for constituents and as my role in the administration.
“On a strictly personal note, I have also used black cabs in the course of fulfilling my council duties when, for health reasons when driving or going by bus isn’t an option and, given the variable and extensive hours of working. Sometimes for reasons of personal safety, I take a taxi.”
Labour group leader, Cllr Cammy Day. added: “I think there’s a number of questions to be asked about taxis use – so we have asked for more information from senior officers.
“Anybody who uses taxis for personal reasons should not be charging the taxpayer for it. She has a responsible position within the administration and I’m sure she will do the right thing.”
Opposition politicians have called for Cllr Cameron to take responsibility for her actions.
Lothian MSP Miles Briggs said: “At a time when public finances are under such pressure this is clearly a flagrant misuses of taxpayers money. Elected representatives are entitled to claim for genuine travel costs to meetings but attending party political meetings is not acceptable.
“This money could have been put to much better use to help a variety of causes – opposed Cllr Cameron using it for her own personal life. I hope Cllr Cameron will apologise and the money which has been wrongly claimed must be paid back to the council.”
Lib Dem finance spokesperson, Cllr Neil Ross added: “Labour councillors are quick to talk about the need for fairer funding for the council. Yet here we have one of their own number claiming back public money for taxi trips to the cinema.
“I think councillors have a duty to act responsibly and remember that every penny spent on travel is money not being allocated to core public services.”