Expenses scandal rocks Islington Council

�An expenses scandal has rocked Islington Council after its crime chief was asked to pay back more than �2,600 in childcare costs.

Councillor Barbara Sidnell stepped down from her position as executive member for community safety this week after it emerged that she claimed money for a childminder for her then 15-year-old son throughout the 2009/2010 financial year – even though the cut off age is 14.

The discrepancy came to light after the mayor-making reception earlier this month, when a large group of Labour supporters started singing happy birthday to Cllr Sidnell’s son as he celebrated his 17th birthday.

An eagle-eyed whistle-blower contacted the council’s monitoring officer to express his concerns – and an investigation uncovered more than 100 incorrect claims.

An Islington Council spokeswoman said: “The council’s members allowance scheme allows councillors to claim the costs of caring for dependent relatives while the councillor is carrying out their duties. This includes children under the age of 15. It would appear that Cllr Sidnell had mistakenly believed the cut-off age was 16.

“This error was pointed out to her last week and she has made arrangements to repay the money, which amounted to �2,646.54.”

The case will now be investigated by the Standards Committee.

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Cllr Sidnell said: “I believe it’s right to step down from the executive and clear my name.”

Islington Council leader Catherine West said: “Barbara is an excellent executive member for community safety but she admits she has made a serious mistake, albeit an innocent one.

“She instantly apologised and offered to re-pay any money that was over-claimed.

“She has done the right thing in quickly referring her case to the Standards Comittee.”

Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, said: “Councillors, like MPs, need to be whiter than white.

“One would hope after ten years on the council one would know what the allowance rules are.”

Housing campaigner, Dr Brian Potter, added: “It beggars belief that someone in this position can’t count.”