SNP councillor criticised for running up nearly £5k mobile bill in Gambia

An SNP councillor has been criticised for running up a near £5k taxpayer bill after leaving his mobile data roaming setting on during a trip to Gambia.

Glasgow SNP councillor Graham Campbell. Picture: PA
Glasgow SNP councillor Graham Campbell. Picture: PA

Graham Campbell, who once stood for Tommy Sheridan's Solidarity party before joining the SNP, cost the taxpayer £4,579 over the 2018/19 financial year during the foreign trip.

As well as receiving a salary, councillors can claim for expenses including mileage, accommodation when attending events, subsistence and mobile phone costs.

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Councillor Graham, who was elected to serve Springburn in 2017, has now agreed to pay back the bulk of the massive bill, which was the highest amount compared to his colleagues.

Tory MSP Annie Wells said it is right that Cllr Campbell should contribute.

She said: "This is an awful lot of taxpayers' money at a time when local government budgets are being slashed by the SNP.

"The glaring gap between this and other councillors' bills is pretty astonishing and it's right that Councillor Campbell should contribute.

"Hardworking taxpayers would expect Councillor Campbell to pay back all of the unnecessary and extreme charges he is responsible for."

The "telephone/ICT" bill for nearly every one of the Glasgow's 85 councillors was modest, coming in at under £50.

Labour councillor Anne McTaggart, a former Glasgow MSP, had the second-highest mobile bill at £606.33.

In January, the Gambia Voice newspaper reported that Cllr Campbell and his partner, Anne McLaughlin, were part of a Westminster Foundation for Democracy delegation that met the

Constitutional Review Commission in the Gambia.

According to the report, the 'objective' of the visit was to 'generate conversations' with political parties and other key stakeholders on "inclusive and accountable on politics and democracy".

After the council was contacted about the £4,579 bill, the councillors total was changed to £62.50.

A council spokesman said: "Cllr Campbell has come to an arrangement to repay the excess charges."

By contrast, senior SNP councillors such as Health and Social Care integration chief Mhairi Hunter, leader Susan Aitken, education convener Chris Cunningham and city treasurer Allan Gow all had modest bills of less than £42.

The mobile row follows press coverage earlier this year over Cllr Campbell's involvement with the now-defunct African and Caribbean Network (ACN) before he was a councillor.

A 2013 investigation concluded that had he had transferred £2,000 from the ACN to his partner without the "clear and unambiguous consent" of the board.

The probe found that Cllr Campbell's decision to make a refund to McLaughlin, who had been a volunteer at the ACN, was a "breach of trust".

However, at the time, a source disputed the report's findings to The Herald on Sunday: "At no point is the fact that Ms McLaughlin was owed more than the sum refunded under dispute.

"The accusation appears to be that the transaction was made without permission. This is not true.

"The payment was made in February 2013 with permission from the 2012/13 board.

"The accusation was issued by the board elected in May 2013.

"The chairman of the board at the time of the transaction subsequently wrote to the 2013/14 board expressing concern at the accusations and confirming that this had been agreed at a board meeting."

Councillor Graham has been approached for comment.

Labour councillor Anne McTaggart did not wish to provide a comment.