We’ve had lots of fun of late with the expenses culture at Transport for London, a run of stories which so upset one senior TfL officer that he actually deigned to break his long-running silence and speak to me (though only when his boss was no longer around to hear the sulk).
But while it seems no sum is too small for the well paid senior officers of TfL to claim, their opposite numbers at the Fire Brigade appear to be the very model of restraint.
Unlike TfL, the expenses of senior fire management have long been published online so we’re able to see that Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson has never developed the same love of taxis as some others in the Greater London Authority family.
Commissioner Dobson’s expenses are dominated by a fixed special payment made in lieu of any monthly mileage or standard travel claims and which is paid “in recognition of the on call requirements placed upon the Commissioner.”
That all seems reasonable because fires, as the Fire Brigades Union has told us a few times, don’t happen at regular, predictable and scheduled times. Unlike presumably the meetings of senior TfL officials who get a free Oyster card yet still need taxis to get through their schedules.
Also wholly absent from the Brigade management’s claims are toy vehicles, hotel Wifi and magazines.
Gifts & Hospitality
In a nice bit of openness, the Brigade’s website not only lists accepted gifts and hospitality, but also those declined.
This allows us to know that Commissioner Dobson either didn’t fancy going to see Star Trek into Darkness (a shame because it’s a great film), or at least didn’t think it acceptable to take a freebie ticket.
If you’re a PR agent or 3rd party looking to schmooze the capital’s fire bosses the odds aren’t in your favour – on a rough count Dobson has declined 12 out of 18 offered gifts, meals and events since January alone.
Last year, and for reasons not listed, he even turned down an offered tour of London’s crime museum and a meal with Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe.
Even the Lord Mayor of the City of London was turned down when he invited Dobson and Deputy Commissioner Rita Dexter to the London Government Dinner.
I like that the declined invites and offers are included, it helps set a proper and meaningful context for those which are accepted. Perhaps this is something the Assembly should be pushing Boris to adopt as standard practice across the whole GLA group?