On Wednesday my inbox suddenly swelled with a number of late FOI responses which Transport for London should have answered by July 4th.
(As an aside, TfL deny any assertion that their sudden arrival was connected to the fact they and I were due to appear before the London Assembly the following day to discuss transparency and access to information. It was merely a very happy co-incidence.)
Among the pile of goodies was TfL’s expenses policy, the totals spent by each of its Chief officers on mobile phone calls and some extra technical info on how each of their expenses claims have been made.
While I’ve not had time to go though all of these in detail, I did make a special effort to see what the expenses policy says about Taxi use, this being an item which features heavily in the expenses of TfL Commissioner Sir Peter Hendy.
Here’s the relevant clause:
“Taxis should only be used in exceptional circumstances (e.g. Night work if there is no alternative or to attend a meeting in an area where there is no public transport). It is essential that all taxi claims are supported by a VAT receipt unless the taxi used is not VAT registered, in which case a non VAT receipt is acceptable.”
And here’s TfL’s previous statement about Sir Peter’s Taxi use:
“Sir Peter Hendy travels to and from work by public transport and he also regularly uses public transport when travelling in the capital on business. He is overseeing the delivery of a ten-year multi-billion pound budget to manage transport in London, and also deliver Crossrail and the upgrade of the Tube and there are occasions when his full schedule and late hours necessitate the use of taxis (which, of course, TfL licenses).”
Between the two statements we can only conclude that Sir Peter’s “late hours” and “full schedule” involve him travelling to and from a surprisingly large number of venues poorly served by London’s extensive public transport network, including its night buses.
With more than £1,500 of taxi journeys claimed between January and March this year, Sir Peter’s misfortune to travel between such remote locales could be seen by some to challenge the commonly accepted ‘unusual’ definition of ‘exceptional’.
Of course, ‘exceptional’ can also mean something that’s very good or even ‘outstanding’, which may be how the capital’s Taxi trade see Sir Peter’s frequent custom.
Either way, perhaps the 14 Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants, and Assistants employed to support the Chief Officers could try and arrange more meetings closer to known transport connections?