A North Herts councillor has called on the council to stop paying expenses covering the home internet costs of staff members.

Cllr Ralph Muncer made the suggestion to Cllr Ian Albert, executive member for finance and IT, at a full council meeting on Thursday, January 25.

In response to a Freedom of Information request made last year by the Taxpayers' Alliance, North Herts Council revealed that it spent £136,578 between 2021 and 2023 covering expenses claims for home internet costs.

Of forty councils who responded to similar requests, North Herts Council's spending on home internet expenses was the highest.

Members of staff who can work from home are able to claim £16 per month, or £192 per year, as homeworking expenses. Between 2021 and 2023, around 300 claims per year were approved for home internet costs.

Cllr Muncer said that he thought "many members of the public will be quite simply shocked that some of their taxpayers money is going towards funding home internet for officers".

The Comet: Cllr Muncer (left) asked Cllr Albert (right) about home internet costs at the North Herts Council meeting.Cllr Muncer (left) asked Cllr Albert (right) about home internet costs at the North Herts Council meeting. (Image: North Herts Council)

He asked Cllr Albert whether he would "commit to withdrawing this scheme for officers, and encouraging officers who don't have access to suitable home internet to work from the council offices", on which he said "£6m of taxpayers money was only recently spent on refurbishing".

Cllr Albert said he would not be making the commitment, and added that "working from home is good for the organisation [and] has many benefits for staff as well as the council and our residents".

"It increases our resilience and business continuity, as we saw during the pandemic. It has not led to any downturn in productivity.

"We're aware of the cost of living crisis and with limited pay increases we feel a contribution to employees working from home costs is fair.

"The important thing here is balancing the needs of the business and the needs of our staff. It's a win-win we believe.


"We've also demonstrated some very clear financial benefits from homeworking. For floor two, we are receiving annual rental income of nearly £50,000. We're also recharging costs of over £50,000 including business rates, energy usage, broadband, etc.

"Altogether, this means that we have £100,000 worth of returns - more than twice the amount that we are paying currently in working at home allowances. Indeed, that money that we generate may increase even more with potential future letting of floor three.

"Once again, this administration is showing how we carefully manage our residents money and carefully work with our staff to get the best from them and the best for our residents."