Hailsham Mayor claims £1,000 for clothes shopping

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JOB losses, rising prices and wage freezes mean some residents have less to spend for clothes shopping.

But the Mayor of Hailsham, Cllr Jeff Bentley-Astor, has had the benefit of spending £1,000 as part of his allowance on clothes appropriate to his role.

The figure is listed in the ‘List of previously certified payments’ (payment schedule) for March 2012 under the Finance and Budget Oversight Committee section on the Hailsham Town Council website.

A resident, who did not want to be named, contacted the Sussex Express to express their outrage at the expense.

He or she said: “In the present financial climate how can a council justify this extravagant expense?

“I am astounded to see that the Mayor would even consider spending £1,000 of tax payers’ money on clothes.

“I know that this has come from his allowance but surely it is morally wrong. What clothing cost £1,000 especially when purchased towards the end of his term of office?

“I honestly believe this should be investigated and if correct the residents of Hailsham should be made aware of how their council tax is being spent.”

Town Clerk John Harrison defended the money grant, saying it was not ‘illegal or contrary to any code of practice, in the Mayor choosing to spend part of his allowance on clothes’.

He cited two law references that a council may pay a chairman, ‘such allowance as it thinks reasonable to enable him to meet the expenses of his office’ and the allowance generally can be spent or used at the chairman’s discretion.

John Harrison, saying the Chairman’s allowance is granted under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972, added: “I fail to see what ‘investigation’ could be instigated as a result of this. The Mayor has worked very hard on the council and dedicated several years to improve the town on behalf of the residents.

“The purchasing of clothing appropriate to the role of Mayor was deemed necessary to accord the proper respect and recognition of the importance of his office and to represent Hailsham Town Council in the correct manner. The Mayor’s allowance is also there to enable all people to hold the office, irrespective of their income, and present themselves in a manor that would not embarrass the office they represent or the town.”