A new Freedom of Information disclosure has revealed that transport commissioner Sir Peter Hendy spent almost £7,000 of taxpayer cash on mobile phone bills between March and November 2014.
Last February MayorWatch reported how Transport for London’s contract with O2, worth around £2.5m per year, includes no bundled minutes.
The lack of inclusive minutes means each call to numbers outside TfL is chargeable, resulting in some of the agency’s top managers individually incurring hundreds of pounds of call charges each month.
London Assembly members have previously suggested managers failed to secure best value for taxpayers when agreeing the contract given the widespread availability of standard consumer and SME tariffs offering unlimited free minutes.
In August Labour London Assembly member Val Shawcross called on Sir Peter to review the contract after it emerged that less senior managers were also incurring high bills.
The latest disclosure shows that Sir Peter routinely spent more than £500 per month on calls – excluding VAT – between March and November.
His most expensive bills were incurred in May and November when he spent £1,553 and £1,441 excluding VAT respectively. TfL says both months include calls made and received when outside the UK.
In total Sir Peter’s mobile bills for the nine months covered by the latest disclosure cost taxpayers £6,717.21 + VAT.
In addition to his high mobile bills, Sir Peter frequently claims for taxi journeys on his expenses, costing taxpayers £1,067 between July and September 2014 in addition to £1,200 spent on meals and lunches in the same period.
TfL, which is currently consulting on ways it can become more open and transparent, says it will shortly start publishing a regular quarterly update on mobile costs on its website.
That commitment has been welcomed by Caroline Pidgeon, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on the London Assembly.
Ms Pidgeon said: “I very much welcome TfL agreeing to publish on a regular basis details of telephone bills for chief officers. This is a small but important step forward in ensuring greater transparency in the way that TfL operates.
“In the meantime I hope that TfL will examine whether they have the best mobile phone deal for all their staff. Even regular conversations with people from around the world should not be leading to the size of the bills that the Commissioner seems to be generating.”