A crunch meeting over Leicestershire CC leader David Parsons’ expense claims and use of a chauffeur-driven car has seen him easily survive an oposition attempt to oust him.
The motion for debate called on Cllr Parsons (Con) to be removed as leader following “recent revelations in the local media regarding the cost of the leader’s activities and the consequential impact on the reputation of the authority as a whole”.
His Conservative group enjoys a large majority and did not break ranks, with the Liberal Democrat and Labour motion being voted down 34-16 on a named vote.
The Liberal Democrats have accused him of conducting “an extravagant style of leadership conducted at the taxpayers’ expense“.
Group leader Simon Galton questioned Cllr Parsons on his use of a chauffeured council car at a cost of £210,576 over six years and about journeys to a Conservative party function and those made around England last year before Cllr Parsons unsuccessfully contested the LGA chairmanship.
“Why did he go to the United & Cecil Club, a Conservative fund raising dinner, with Cllr Sprason in the car?” Cllr Galton asked.
“Why did he visit the leaders of East Riding of Yorkshire and North Yorkshire on 2 March 2011.
“You said it was as chair of the [LGA] improvement board, well why was your running mate Rob Light also in the car?
“How can you justify visiting so many Conservative councils? Was it only Conservative councils that needed the improvement board’s help? Is it not a coincidence that you were doing this a few days after you announced your candidacy in the LGA?”
Labour group leader Max Hunt taunted Tory councillors that they would not turn against Cllr Parsons because he controlled patronage worth £250,000 in allowances.
“I just don’t think you can see yourselves as the electorate will see you,” he added.
Cllr Parsons told councillors that he had been told it was difficult to apportion costs for civic travel and “I was not shown anything on the methodology of using the car until about three weeks ago, but all transport was approved by the bureaucracy.”
Controversial visits made to Grand Prix events at Silverstone were for the purpose of encouraging local investment by the motor racing industry, Cllr Parsons said.
He gave up using the chauffeured car last month and told the council meeting that using civic transport was “not value for money.”
“In the past year all trips to London have been made by standard class rail,” he added.
Cabinet member David Sprason (Con) accused Cllr Galton of making “a seedy little speech”, and said he had attended the Untied & Cecil Club dinner when he was in London anyway after a day of LGA business.
“I did have a lift back with David Parsons and I saved taxpayers money by not claiming a train fare,” he said.
Labour’s Jewel Miah asked Cllr Parsons: “Would you have dropped the use of a civic car without these revelations?
“If it is not the right thing to do now, why did you use it last year and the year before?”
David Bill (Lib Dem) said he “feared for Tory councillors’ livers and kidneys with all these receptions and dinners”.
He added: “The fault lies with the system that takes power from the council and puts it into the hands of small number of people, be that a mayor, police commissioner or leader, it is that system that encourages this sort of behaviour.”
Tory Tony Kershaw said Cllr Parsons must be “innocent unless proven guilty, and said he had done “an outstanding job” with Leicestershire gaining booth ‘excellent’ and ‘four stars’ under the Audit Commission’s former rating systems.
Cllr Parsons was referred to Leicestershire’s standards committee in February over expenses related to his role in Brussels on the Committee of the Regions, but it is yet to meet.