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Council finance chief in taxi expenses row resigns

Lezley Marion Cameron was the vice-convener of finance and resources at Edinburgh City Council.

Resigned: Lezley Marion Cameron was criticised for her expenses.
Resigned: Lezley Marion Cameron was criticised for her expenses.

A leading councillor who was criticised for claiming nearly £1500 of taxi fares on expenses has resigned - as it emerged she was previously sent a letter from her own authority asking to pay up Council Tax that she owed.

Lezley Marion Cameron, the vice-convener of finance and resources at Edinburgh City Council, claimed back money for trips to the pub and cinema.

Her bill since May 2017 made up 23% of the total amount of taxi fares put on expenses by councillors in the capital.

The Labour councillor charged for 80 separate trips in the space of a year, including more than 50 from or to her home.

Cllr Cameron said the two cinema trips to see Outlaw King and Avengers: Infinity War were on behalf of Film Edinburgh, connected to her council role.

Ahead of her resignation, she said: "I'll repay the personal trips. I will use a taxi if I'm running late or if I'm asked at short notice to sub for a colleague. I don't know how personal ones have ended up on there.

"I'm one of the busiest councillors and I have a lot of meetings across the city both for constituents and my role in the administration.

"On a strictly personal note, I have also used black cabs in the course of fulfilling my council duties when, for health reasons, when driving or going by bus isn't an option and, given the variable and extensive hours of working. Sometimes for reasons of personal safety, I take a taxi."

It has now also emerged that Ms Cameron was one of four city councillors who owed the authority Council Tax, but she paid up "immediately" after a letter was issued.

The councillor was set to be sacked by her party colleagues next week after losing the support of her political group.

It is thought she will now take on a different role in the administration.

Cllr Cameron said she has not broken any rules over Council Tax and stressed it happened long before she was vice convener of finance and resources.

She has spent part of this week on a business trip to Stockholm in her role as a director of the EICC, along with officials and SNP cllr George Gordon - but returned in time for Thursday's finance and resources committee, her last as vice convener.

Conservative councillor Susan Webber, who first asked questions of all councillors' taxi use, said that Ms Cameron should no longer be in a position of leadership.

She said: "It's a shame that councillor Day and the Labour group have had to take such action.

"When we get elected we ask people to trust us with good stewardship of the public purse. If members, including councillor Cameron in this particular instance, are blind to this and cannot recognise their wrongdoing, then they cannot and should not be in leadership positions such as this."

Cammy Day, Labour group leader, said the calls for his colleague to resign had been "politically-driven".

He added: "Earlier today I received a letter from councillor Lezley Marion Cameron, asking that I, together with Labour group colleagues, consider her request that she move from the role of vice convener of finance and resources to another role befitting of her experience, skills, knowledge and abilities.

"Knowing that councillor Cameron lives with chronic health issues and being mindful of the impact of recent press and social media coverage on these conditions and councillor Cameron's overall mental and physical wellbeing, I have agreed to accept councillor Cameron's request which will now be considered by the Labour group.

"Some recent coverage has been purely political, and we cannot allow this to detract us from dealing with the real issues of addressing poverty, sustainability and wellbeing of our city."

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