Paisley claims £2.40 for 12-mile bike ride

A LONG-serving city councillor has charged the taxpayer £2.40 for a 12-mile cycle between his home and the City Chambers, it emerged today.

• Taxpayers have been charged for Paisley's bike ride

Tory councillor Alastair Paisley, who has represented the former Baberton and current Pentland Hills wards since the creation of the city council in 1996, made the claim for a return bike trip between his Juniper Green home and the City Chambers in May.

Although the 73-year-old was not breaking council rules by claiming back mileage at a rate of 20p per mile, he is thought to be the only councillor in Edinburgh to have ever claimed back mileage for a bicycle journey. Had he claimed the rate every working day for a year, then his journeys would cost the taxpayer almost 550.

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He today insisted that he was right to claim the money as he was attending a meeting of the Conservative group, and insisted that he will claim back the money on expenses again if he cycles into the city centre for a business meeting.

Every other trip he has made between his home and the City Chambers so far this year was by car, which he also claimed back at a rate of 40p a mile.

The figures emerged as a new analysis of expenses claims by the Evening News showed that councillors claimed 19,084 in expenses in the first six months of the current financial year -down by 26 per cent compared with the same period last year.

Cllr Paisley said: "I claimed it back because I was entitled to. I have to have a specific reason to claim it back, like a committee meeting. If I just cycle in to do a bit of work then head off again I don't claim for that.

"I would hope that people younger and fitter than me would cycle in too. (Tory councillor] Cameron Rose cycles every day but he's only going across the Meadows so I don't think he claims it back.

"But if, like me, you live six miles across the city and you're entitled to claim it, then claim it. It is shown in the (expenses rules] book that I can claim 20p a mile, so why not?

"I'm 73, I have angina, I'm type two diabetic and I cycle because I'm told I should. But to get in for nine, cycling is a bit of a struggle, so I drive then and claim back mileage. Why shouldn't I for cycling? I charge what I have to charge and I'm not in the least bit bothered."

All expenses claims are governed by rules set out in 2007 by the Scottish Government.

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Cllr Paisley's cycle claim, part of his 280.80 of expenses claimed, today won the backing of rival politicians. Councillor Andrew Burns, a keen cyclist and leader of the Labour group, said: "I cycle every day but I do not claim back mileage because I don't live too far from the City Chambers, but I do think that it is important that cyclists can claim for it too. Drivers of cars do not just get a petrol expense, it is a depreciation expense too. Cllr Paisley is entirely right to claim that back."

But John O'Connell, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Many people cycle to work to reduce the cost of commuting, and while these claims are less than car or rail expenses, it really should reduce the cost to the taxpayer to zero. What's more, expenses have to be fair and if ordinary taxpayers wouldn't get them in their jobs, then there's no reason that councillors should get them."

Expenses claimed by councillors have been edging downwards in recent years amid widespread scrutiny.

Council leader Jenny Dawe was the councillor who claimed the most expenses, with her 958 claim including 760 spent on accommodation during a five-night stay in New York as part of the round-the-world "Clipper" yacht race.