Horncastle mayor under fire over expenses

Mayor Bill Aron
Mayor Bill Aron

A Horncastle town councillor is calling on mayor Bill Aron to consider repaying some of his allowances and expenses.

Coun Aron received an allowance of £1,000 to cover his year in office which ends this month.

In line with town council policy, Coun Aron has submitted details of how he spent the allowance.

Town councillor Phil Cantwell says he accepts Coun Aron has not broken any rules but has criticised some of the expenditure.

The development comes as town councillors consider scrapping the post of mayor, a move Coun Aron is opposed to.

Coun Aron insists he has done nothing wrong and said he was the victim of a ‘mischief making’ aimed to discredit him.

He says he would never do anything to harm the town council’s reputation and also questions the timing of the criticism - just hours before he stands for the Horncastle and district ward in the county council elections tomorrow (Thursday).

Figures obtained by the Horncastle News show Coun Aron utilised some of his allowance for donations he made at events, including some organised by charities.

Last month, Coun Aron used his allowance - which is funded by council taxpayers - to make a £5 donation towards the cost of a leaving present for a town council staff member.

According to Coun Cantwell, other councillors made a contribution from their own pockets. Coun Cantwell said: “Coun Aron has a lot of explaining to do.

“I am embarrassed by some of the claims.

“He should consider paying back some of the money.”

In addition to his allowance, Coun Aron also claimed £183.60 for mileage.

He withdrew two journeys to inspect the town’s rivers during ‘flood alerts’ last November, stressing it was ‘an error’.

Coun Cantwell has called for a full investigation into Coun Aron’s claims.

He has complained to East Lindsey District Council and the town’s MP Victoria Atkins.

Horncastle resident Richard Barker - a former town councillor - has submitted a formal complaint to ELDC about Coun Aron’s claims.

Figures were initially drawn from a draft list submitted by Coun Aron to the town council although he has since submitted a more detailed list.

The finalised list shows that up until the end of 2016, Coun Aron attended 21 events and charged £10-a-time including donations and expenses.

There are three other donations/expenses listed for £25, £20 and £50.

In addition, Coun Aron says he attended another 26 events and charged £3-a-time with sundries.

Itemised claims include £50 when Coun Aron took part in a charity ‘Bail or Jail’ event, £20 spent on mince pies and drinks for a town council meeting before Christmas and £25 on Christmas cards and postage.

In the first half of his year, Coun Aron spent £383 and then £595.15 in the second half although the majority of that latter figure (£519.15) was on a reception at the town’s civic service.

In January, Coun Aron was accused at a town council meeting of making claims ‘not in the spirit of the post of mayor’ by then town councillor Jonathan Ferrari.

It also emerged at a council meeting that month, that Coun Aron had reported Coun Ferrari and two other people - including Mr Barker - to police over concerns he had about their conduct towards him.

Police confirmed they were not taking any action.

Coun Aron and Coun Ferrari attended a meeting with ELDC’s monitoring officer who confirmed Coun Aron had not breached any rules.

Coun Ferrari resigned from the council at that meeting.

Coun Aron told the News: “I believe that Mr Barker and Coun Cantwell are ‘mischief making’ as its election time and that a number of councillors want to do away with the position of mayor and perhaps see this as a way of discrediting me and my year in office.

“This is my third term as mayor and each time I have felt it a huge honour and privilege and would not do anything outside my remit to harm the town council’s reputation.

“The mayoral allowance was reduced by £400. I have attended over 50 functions and events and hosted a Civic Service and come in under budget.

“I personally matched my donation to Children’s Lincs (Bail of Jail) as I thought this was a deserving and worthwhile charity supporting vulnerable children and families.

“The sundries entry for the flood alert was an error and only a draft entry and as the staff member wasn’t well known to all councillors then I thought a small additional contribution reasonable.

“I too have contacted Alex Strickland (ELDC Monitoring Officer) as I am again concerned at what is going on.”

Coun Aron stressed he had complied fully with the rules regarding his allowances and expenses - and the guidance offered by the town clerk and the town council’s Personnel and Finance Committee.