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Islington Council come under fire for cash spent on Blackberry phone bills

PUBLISHED: 12:12 14 June 2013

Cllr Troy Gallagher Pic: Dieter Perry

Cllr Troy Gallagher Pic: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

The town hall has come under fire for cash spent on councillors’ mobile phones – including £400 on two that lay in a drawer unused for 12 months.

In the last financial year, Islington Council spent more than £2,500 on BlackBerrys for members – including the bills for two phones returned by councillors. Officers then forgot to cancel the contracts.

The biggest bill was for Bunhill ward councillor Troy Gallagher, who racked up almost £500, followed by leader Cllr Catherine West, who had almost £340 in calls.

Councillors Janet Burgess, James Murray and Paul Smith, who were all executive members, spent more than £300.

Cllr Gallagher made around 1,700 calls of which less than 200 were to Islington numbers and 192 were made outside the UK. He also sent 4,900 texts, of which 500 went overseas, and 65 calls and 53 texts were made after 10pm.

Checks

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of the opposition Lib Dem group, returned his BlackBerry last year.

He said: “There clearly aren’t enough checks and balances and if this is happening with the phone bills how many other departments are being run like this?

“It is really incompetent to forget to cancel two contracts and carry on paying for them. Cllr Gallagher shouldn’t have been using a council issued mobile phone for personal calls to this extent. One or two and you could turn a blind eye, but it’s not fair that the council taxpayer is picking up the tab.”

Cllr Gallagher said he goes through his bill each month and pays for personal calls. His original bill was more than £620. He said: “I often have to call residents back on their mobiles and when I visit family in Ireland I have ‘roaming’ turned on so I am accessible at all times. Making sure my residents can get hold of me quickly and have their problems solved efficiently is the most important thing.”

A spokesman for the council said Cllr Gallagher had paid for personal calls. “Two handsets were returned but through an error these contracts were not cancelled,” he added.


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