Councillor runs up biggest tab with 'chauffeur service'

A massive' taxi bill has again been amassed by Barnet councillor and London Assembly deputy chairman Brian Coleman - making his summer total higher than both Mayor of London Ken Livingstone and Deputy Mayor Nicky Gavron.

The Greater London Authority's audit committee showed Mr Coleman spent £1,740.04 on London cabs, between April 1 and August 31 this year, making him responsible for nearly half of the total expenditure for taxi travel in the assembly. This compared to £82.50 spent by Mr Livingstone, £382.32 by Ms Gavron, and £260.26 by Chair of the Assembly Sally Hamwee.

His total expenses came to £3,583 - the highest in the assembly - compared to Mr Livingstone's £2,708.08.

Mr Coleman was unrepentant about his spending. He said: "I am not going to apologise. I am the hardest working member of the assembly."

The bill comes on top of Mr Coleman's £10,334 taxi bill recorded in the last audit, between April 2006 and March 2007, which he said was a result of his attendance of official functions during his tenure as Chair of the Assembly.

The average taxi bill of members during this period was £845.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone criticised Mr Coleman's spending and stressed that free annual, all-zone Travel Cards were available to London Assembly members to encourage the use of public transport.

He added: "Yet again, Brian Coleman's extravagant taxi bills are a political issue. The expenses show he has created a chauffeur service for himself in all but name.

"Mr Coleman previously argued his massive taxi bill last year was because he was Chair of the Assembly. But he has been Deputy Chair for six months now and he's still claiming far more than any other assembly member, including the present chair. Rather than swanning around London in cabs on such a huge scale, Brian Coleman should try using buses, the Tube, or even walking occasionally."

Alison Moore, Barnet's Labour group leader, said: "I am horrifed that Brian Coleman continues to take tax-payers for a ride.

His arrogance is breath- taking."