Councillors Increase Travel Allowances As Chairman Says She Struggles To Attend Some Meetings
Cllr Amanda Martin said the Council “must be prepared to accept that some members will not be able to carry out their functions if they’re not prepared to pay the extra.”
But some councillors were uncomfortable about raising allowances when the authority is facing big cuts in spending.
Cllr Ted Moulson said in the current circumstances, “with the excessive pressure on the budget” he would find it “very difficult” to support the rise.
He said “from a political point of view” he wanted to keep the allowances where they were last year.
“As we are in a situation where we’re strapped for cash, any savings we can make, we should do, and the members can swallow that,” he added.
Cllr Gaz O’Neill was also unhappy about the proposal.
He said it was “entirely unacceptable” that the chairman couldn’t attend some meetings on behalf of Council because of her personal financial situation.
He felt it was creating a situation where “the only people who can stand for election are those in a financial situation to do so.”
But Gaz wasn’t convinced that increasing allowances was the way to address that and wanted other mechanisms to be put in place.
“You can hold your head in your hands again chairman, which I do find slightly disrespectful,” said Cllr O’Neill, “but I do not think it is appropriate for us an authority to be increasing allowances while talking about cutting jobs.”
But Chief Executive Theo Leijser said it wasn’t an allowance. It was simply, “a limit to which extent members are allowed to put a claim forward” and had to be fully evidenced with receipts.
And some members felt that the proposals were fair.
Cllr Steve Sims cautioned against “making decisions for political expediency.”
He felt the increase was “a sensible thing to do” especially in the current situation, where the Council didn’t have enough people standing for election.
Cllr Fran Grottick said it was, “unfair that any member should have to subsidise their work on behalf of the authority.”
And Cllr Avril Mumford said she didn’t think £150 for accommodation in London was too high.
“I believe it should be a lot more,” said Avril.
Administration Officer Sue Pritchard said that some female members, “would tend to look for better safety in a slightly more expensive hotel than you might as a man,” although Cllr O’Neill said he was “now incredibly confused” that the discussion had “taken a turn towards sexual equality.”
Cllr James Francis proposed that “perhaps the chaps could take a cut” in their allowances.
Councillors voted in favour of the increases although the Chairman did not take part in the vote.