Islington councillor cleared over expenses
PUBLISHED: 12:27 02 August 2011 | UPDATED: 12:50 02 August 2011
A councillor involved in an expenses scandal after claiming more than £2,600 in childcare costs has been cleared of acting dishonestly.
The Standards Committee has ruled that Councillor Barbara Sidnell did not deliberately claim cash to pay for a babysitter knowing she was not entitled to the benefit.
She stepped down as executive member for community safety in May after it emerged that she made more than 100 claims and received £2,646,54.
The money paid for a child minder for her then 15-year-old son throughout the 2009/2010 financial year when the cut off age is 14.
Every local authority has a Standards Committee which is made up of councillors and members of the public and investigates cases where a councillor is accused of breaking the Code of Conduct.
Islington Council’s Standards Committee ruled this week that “the mistakes made by Cllr Sidnell were not deliberate but due to a lack of awareness and carelessness”.
Cllr Sidnell, who has now returned to council duties and made arrangements to repay the cash, said: “I am pleased because this was an innocent mistake. I am extremely grateful for the support from the local community who believed and trusted me, which was something I really needed.”
Councillor Catherine West, leader of Islington Council, said: “I am happy, but not surprised, that Barbara has been entirely cleared of any suggestion that she acted dishonestly.
“The investigation found that the council didn’t clearly explain the rules for childcare expenses, so the forms will now be changed to avoid this happening to anyone else.”
She added: “Following the tragic death of Andrew Jaipaul, our priority is to get on with the work of making Islington safer.”
The discrepancy originally came to light at a civic bash when Labour supporters started singing happy birthday to Cllr Sidnell’s son as he celebrated his 17th birthday.
A whistle-blower contacted the council’s monitoring officer to express his concerns and an investigation was launched.
Councillor Terry Stacy, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, said: “Those in public life need to be whiter than white.
“God help us if she is running the borough when she can’t organise her diary.”