By Angela Harbutt
Whilst we have all been preoccupied in recent days with the hows, whys and wherefores of MPs allowances. I was stunned by a report I stumbled across on Radio 5 on Sunday evening concerning the incredible rise and rise of Councillors allowances. Listen to the report here: http://odeo.com/episodes/24506564-5lr-Councillors-expenses-26-April-09
The BBC looked at figures for Councillors expenses across the 388 Councils in England, comparing figures over the 4 years 2004 to 2008.
What they found was that around 300 of those Councils had awarded themselves above inflation rises. Some councils have awarded themselves rises in the 100% range.
Example: Rochford District Council in Essex has more than doubled its allowances bill. 3 years ago the Council Leader was claiming around £10,000, now he claims £25,500. His excuse ? That this was done to put Rochford “in line” with other Councils in Essex. Oh please.
Councils appoint a remuneration panel to recommend Councillors allowances – but crucially the Councils can ignore or be selective about what recommendations they take up. And indeed too many do ignore them.
Unlike MPs, Councillors can only claim a flat rate (no John Lewis list here) , though some also can claim a “special responsibility allowance” if they hold what they laughably call a “cabinet post” or are a council leader etc. And of course, some will be eligible for other allowances from elsewhere within the Government system. What is pretty shocking is that Councillors dont even have to turn up to claim the allowance – and again, believe you me some of them dont. All aboard please… the Gravy Train is about to leave the station.
So whilst we are in the mood for “cleaning up” and hopefully, slimming down, politics, let’s not focus all of our attention on Westminster. Let’s spend some time examining the increasingly huge amounts of our money, many Councillors are spending on themselves.
, local councils