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Council chief dined at Jamie Oliver's restaurant at your expense

By Essex Chronicle  |  Posted: January 03, 2013

  • DINING OUT: Essex County Council chief executive Joanna Killian

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THE chief executive of Essex County Council knew about some of Lord Hanningfield's excessive credit card spending during his time as leader of the authority, the Chronicle can reveal.

In fact, Joanna Killian attended some of the lavish dinners attributed by the authority to Lord Hanningfield and paid for by the Essex taxpayer.

In two consecutive evenings, Ms Killian, who is paid a basic salary of £210,000-a-year, had dinners with the peer at both Jamie Oliver's and Rick Stein's Cornish restaurants – with taxpayers picking up the £1,000-plus bill.

"It confirms our suspicions that Joanna Killian knew about and participated in some of these junkets," said county councillor Mike Mackrory, the leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at County Hall.

But less than two months ago, when Essex County Council released the damning details of Lord Hanningfield's £287,000 corporate credit card spending to the public, Ms Killian said in an interview with the Chronicle that she had warned the 72-year-old on a number of occasions about his spending before it was "too late".

"Lord Hanningfield made the choices he did," she said.

But by cross-referencing Ms Killian's publicly available mileage claims and taxi receipts with the peer's alleged spending, the Chronicle forced County Hall to confirm that its chief executive had actually attended some of the dinners paid for by the corporate credit card in Lord Hanningfield's name.

During the 2007 Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, for example, Ms Killian was with Lord Hanningfield when he spent £906.60 at Sam's of Sevendials Restaurant, an award-winning bistro in the heart of the city.

The previous November, Ms Killian attended a meal with colleagues at Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant in Newquay, where £540.25 was charged to the Essex taxpayer.

And just 24 hours later, Ms Killian dined out with Lord Hanningfield and other unnamed colleagues, this time at Rick Stein's The Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, racking up a £518.25 bill.

Lord Hanningfield, who was jailed for fiddling his Parliamentary expenses, has always maintained that the county council expenses in his name were not all his, ever since the county council published them when City of London Police dropped their investigation into the peer.

His credit card statements reveal that he dined out more than 400 times in five years.

But of those meals, 65 per cent took place between the peer and council members and officers.

He told the Chronicle: "She was at some of these meals. I spoke to her every day and she was with me on some of the occasions that I'm being criticised for.

"I rarely went anywhere alone, people in the office arranged for me to go to these places. The bill was just in my name."

The former pig farmer also said Ms Killian joined him for meals at the House of Lords on occasions.

The Chronicle has identified six occasions when Ms Killian dined with Lord Hanningfield at the Palace of Westminster.

On April 30, 2008, Ms Killian attended a dinner at the House of Lords with Lord Hanningfield and cabinet members with the peer picking up the £526.57 tab on the corporate credit card.

"She didn't try and warn me – she never mentioned a thing to me," claimed Lord Hanningfield.

But in response, Ms Killian maintained: "The work council officers did with Lord Hanningfield, including me, did lead to significant changes but national events overtook our work with him. Since Cllr Martin took over the role of leader changes have taken place and the processes relating to the leader's expenses are now some of the most robust in local government."

Cllr Peter Martin, who took over when Lord Hanningfield stepped down in February 2010, said: "I am confident that Joanna worked hard during Lord Hanningfield's time as leader to get him to understand the seriousness of the situation and to recognise his responsibilities to be compliant with the governance processes. I am also fully supportive of the way she handled the situation during what was a very challenging time, and she continues to have my full support.

"It must be remembered that both the City of London Police and the Audit Commission have investigated Lord Hanningfield's expenses, and no action was taken. My, and her, focus continues to be on making sure Essex County Council is ready to face the next series of challenges local government faces, and remains on its path of making significant savings, while delivering quality services for residents."

Ms Killian added: "Since becoming chief executive I have worked hard to ensure that over £300 million worth of savings have been made, and that the council is in a financially secure position to face the challenges now and in our immediate future.

"The work of our own internal audit team exposed a level of excessive expenditure that has been well-documented. As I have said before, the council is now a different organisation, with a different leader, and this could not happen again. Action is now in hand to recover monies that may be due to the council. As chief executive, I would have attended events and meetings on council business. That is part of my job.

"My own expenses have always been subject to approval processes and are there for people to see on the council's website."

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  • Cleggeron  |  January 07 2013, 10:18AM

    Interesting to note, too, that the council's constitution says that "expenditure on alcohol will never be reimbursed and must not be claimed". So either they were very hearty eaters, or someone's been paid for things they shouldn't have been. Wouldn't it be interesting to see the actual bill?

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  • saffroncourt  |  January 06 2013, 7:51PM

    If she warned Hanningfield then why did she accept dinner on several occasions at top restaurants. Something doesn't add up. The council also claim that this was some years ago and different rules are now in place. Can someone then tell me why the cabinet member for planning has been to China twice and USA once to my knowledge after Hanningfield was charged. Seems things continue. Also for the council to say that they will not release details of the trips as there is no public interest, I would challenge this as it is of utmost interest to the public being their employer and paymaster. They know what lies beneath the stones which will uncover even more corruption.

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  • FelstedGeez  |  January 06 2013, 4:39PM

    Killian's as greedy and corrupt as Hanningfield. The political 'elite' ion this squalid little island preach to the thrid world, yet they are every bit as bent, and steal from the people, every bit as much as a southern hemisphere dictatorship. We need to sweep away dross oike Killian and all other CEOs in local government - they are leeches, sucking the financial lifeblood of the people.

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  • stuboy  |  January 06 2013, 2:30PM

    Just a bunch of blood sucking vermin, anyone else would be thrown in jail ,While they jolly up ,people have to struggle to pay their council tax ,They are so thick skinned, they really don't think they have done anything wrong.

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  • stuboy  |  January 06 2013, 2:21PM


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  • PakefieldPonc  |  January 03 2013, 6:34PM

    Killian is the epitome of local government corruption. This woman is an absolute disgrace and is stealing from council tax payers. Elderly people will freeze to death this winter, whilst this ***** dines out on their council tax. Essex C C is tantamount to a squalid, sordid, sleazy, seedy third world banana republic dictatorship. We don't need CEOs in local government - they are parasites on the people. In any other country in the world Killian would now be in hiding and bent officials like her, which is most of them in Britain, would be overthrown in a revolution.

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  • voiceofAutism  |  January 03 2013, 5:35PM

    If you think her behaviour regarding this is terrible, and let's face it you should, Ms Killian and her office are desperately trying to hide how much money they are throwing away in social care, to AVOID helping those in need. and over the next few years it is going to cost Essex tax payers millions. Of course this sum of money ignores the human cost

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  • bigblondebird  |  January 03 2013, 11:50AM

    It is beyond belief that this continues be reported, If a member of the public were to commit fraud they would be in prison serving time. If you hold a highly responsible position in a company or public sector you should have the nounce to know that you do not spend tax payers money on lavish meals and other little jaunts. It is no exscuse to make claims that Joanna Killian did not warn him about his spending...a pathetic arguement for a supposedly inteligent man. Perhaps Joanne Killan should have paid the bill out of her £210,000 salary. These people, our "representatives" appear to forget that they are in their posts to represent us, to work for us, to be committed to us, to be transparent in their working lives, to be honest and trustworthy. Time after time we are left footing a bill, feeling let down, disrespected, powerless and downright angry, all this remains a continual saga of lies with no appropriate punishments. We should not respect these people and they do not have a place in Government. I suspect that the people in government positions who are dishonest are hoping that a headline story will come along and the spotlight will shift onto someone else, leaving them relieved that they have dodged the bullet and perhaps got away with it. I am hoping that you have not got away with it.....its just on hold. I still want to hold on to the belief that in the end the baddies get caught and justice is dished out no matter what position you hold in life.

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  • Simon Christopher  |  January 03 2013, 11:10AM

    She didn't try and warn me, she never mentioned a thing to me.

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