Council director's £18,000 expenses bill scrutinised
YET another senior officer issue has arisen in Scilly's council in the wake of the departure of its chief executive.
Under the microscope is finance and resources director Peter Lawrence-Roberts, who has made an annual claim for £18,000 expenses.
He maintains this bill – for the year to April 2012 – represents a package arrangement negotiated six years ago when he first became an employee of the Council of the Isles of Scilly.
Part of the contract allowed some work from his Devon home. He insists he would not have taken the position had the arrangement not been agreed.
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Mr Lawrence-Roberts, who earns £70,000 a year, concedes the figure was large.
"I have said all I have to say on this subject and have nothing further to add," he said. "However, let me state clearly that I do understand people's concern over the issue.
"I am meeting with the chairman and vice-chairman of the council in the next few days to seek a solution to this matter."
The expenses were agreed initially to cover Mr Lawrence-Roberts's weekly trips back to his Exeter home, which included elements of air travel, car parking, mileage and return trips.
Mr Lawrence-Roberts, who was married and has two children, is now divorced. He currently lives in Scilly with a civil partner. He has an Exeter home.
Mike Hicks, council chairman, said he would be looking into "something which is obviously in the public interest".
Justification for the arrangement is based on the premise that modern communications technology negate any requirement to be permanently based in the islands.
A social media comment claimed Mr Lawrence-Roberts, who used to work for the audit commission, had been engaged at a time not only when the authority's fiscal management was in trouble, but when a major change from cash accounting to accruals was taking place.
"The ridiculous expenses arrangement reflects the council's desperation and poor decision-making," said the comment.
Mr Hicks confirmed Mr Lawrence-Roberts's fiscal expertise "was absolutely essential to the council" at that time the agreement was made. "But we must certainly look at where we go in the future," he added.