Row over cost to taxpayer rumbles on

The cost of the extraordinary meeting to discuss post-16 student transport could be £78,000 less than originally quoted, it has been suggested.

The county council’s Labour Administration had warned that the session would cost more than £80,000 to hold.

But Conservative member for Morpeth North David Bawn said a full breakdown of the figures shows the meeting cost £15,218, and the “true cost” after removing officers’ and councillors’ time was £2,330, made up of agendas, a PA system, members’ travel and security.

The figure of £80,661 includes meetings of the North and West Area Committees, Scrutiny Committee and Policy Board, which discussed the issue, and the Petitions Committee receiving the petition.

The bulk of the cost, £58,634, comes from statutory consultation on the changes to student transport policy.

Coun David Bawn said: “It is readily apparent that the majority of the costs listed do not relate to the extraordinary meeting and would have been expended even if the meeting had not been called.

“We all knew that the £80,000 figure quoted by Labour sources before the meeting was scaremongering poppycock. I expect a full public retraction and apology.”

But Council Leader Grant Davey said: “It’s clear the Tories are running scared over the £80,000 cost of this extraordinarily expensive extraordinary meeting, Coun Bawn may think £80,000 is ‘poppycock’, but residents who will have to shell out for Tory political vanity won’t forgive.”