A COUNCILLOR was found to have brought the council into disrepute over a £9,000 allowances overpayment — four months after the authority apologised for the error.
Cllr Sue Ellis, who chairs the licensing board, hit out at a “series of cock-ups” by RMBC, which included the accidental publication of personal family details last week.
The Labour member for Wickersley ward was paid for her position on the regional pensions board for 17 months after finishing as chairman.
The final payment came in September 2020 — after the mistake came to light following the publications of members’ allowances in the Advertiser.
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Cllr Ellis received a formal apology in October from finance director Judith Badger, who noted that the error was on RMBC’s part as allowances are automatically paid, rather than claimed like expenses.
Opposition members Cllrs Allen Cowles and Mick Elliott, Rotherham Democratic Party, referred the matter to the standards board and a hearing took place on January 18.
Cllr Elliott said: “The fact that she received this extra money apparently without realising is somewhat incredulous.”
The standards committee was told that Cllr Ellis was in the fortunate financial position of the family living off her partner’s salary, while her council allowances were paid into another account as retirement savings.
The panel’s findings — published yesterday — were that Cllr Ellis breached the code of conduct by bringing the council into disrepute. No breach was found in relation to honesty.
Cllr Ellis said: “I welcome the committee’s finding that there is absolutely no question about my honesty, and as soon as I knew about the council’s overpayment I immediately paid it all back in full.
“The standards process has been hijacked for political ends ahead of the local elections.
“I’m really dismayed that the council made a series of cock-ups and apologised unreservedly, but I’m the one carrying the can.”
She added: “Of course I regret not checking my council payments more closely and I’ve been reluctant to explain publicly the personal reasons for this.
“But the latest council error means my family’s confidential details were wrongly released, so my father’s death, my mother’s deteriorating dementia and my partner’s resurgent cancer are all now in the public domain.
“I trust most people will understand with all this happening, my priorities over this last period were with my family.”
Cllr Cowles denied the referral to the standards department had been politically motivated but because of concerns from the public.
He said: “There are mistakes in payroll all over the country. Mistakes happen but people don’t end up with apologies.
“Surely the onus is on everyone to ensure that they are being paid correctly, especially when it’s public money.”
He added: “These days, people either have online or phone apps for banking. Cllr Ellis admitted that this account was online.
“Are you saying to me that all those times at the computer, you would never, ever check on that account?”