Councillors Increase Travel Allowances As Chairman Says She Struggles To Attend Some Meetings

town hall windows signScilly’s councillors have voted to increase their travel allowance limits following a debate where the Chairman said she struggled to attend all of her meetings and often had to “pay the difference.”

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.

16 Responses to Councillors Increase Travel Allowances As Chairman Says She Struggles To Attend Some Meetings

  1. Jonny Exile April 15, 2016 at 11:23 am

    One never hears the end of ‘Smart Islands’ and all the rest of it but, when it comes to actually being smart and using existing tech to save money, the chance to have us pay for a jolly to the Mainland is always going to trump a video call. Had to laugh the other day when Leijser informed a meeting in his usual grand style that he must have an increase in his travel budget because he needed to go to meetings to discuss Cornish devolution. Why trouble yourself with putting your thoughts in an email (and then getting on with your actual job) when you can have several days off work and a freebie to the Mainland just to sit in a room for an hour or so; I would say to utter a few sentences but knowing Leijser it’s going to be at least 10 minutes of impenetrable and meaningless Theospeak. ‘Room meat’ I think the Americans call it.

    It’s worth adding that it isn’t just our lot going to the Mainland that’s the problem, it’s also the number of Mainland jobsworths they bring over for their own meetings; ‘who are all these people’ would be the best way of summing-up some of the them.

    There’s actually a huge lost opportunity here: the Council could be demonstrating how (readily available) tech can be used in running a relatively complex operation without disappearing off to the Mainland at every whip stitch making travel into a huge issue in the process. If they can show that I would have thought the location independent workers and small businesses that will bring new skills and opportunities to the Islands might be more interested in coming down.

    • Dick van worthing plaank April 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

      Using Skype is a bit unprofessional, that is why dedicated IP video phones are used to connect to people over the globe in full HD. As you say, the council are not flexing their muscles enough if they are to win over these entrepreneurs into making use of the Porthmellon Innovation Centre. It is one of few buildings on the islands with fibre optic to the premises if they are advertising Internet speeds up to 160Mbps, so why not use one of these rooms to get some use out of the empty shell at least?

  2. Small mided insula something for nothing where's my grant islander April 15, 2016 at 7:32 am

    As anyone who’s used it will know Skype is a bit shit, and certainly not up to the job of conducting business meetings over it

    The EE network here has 4G

    £150 is more than enough for an overnight stay in London

    And why should Cllrs be out of pocket for doing council business

    • fed up now April 15, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      google completely agrees – £121 for a chain hotel in westminster, sort by price and you can knock 60% off that. £150 is just people being greedy/taking what they can get.

    • Hi Steve April 15, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      The Chairman uses video conferencing when it suits her.

  3. Linda April 5, 2016 at 12:37 pm

    I remember vividly being TOLD, well over 16 years ago video conferencing was the progressive way forward. Would save on travelling time and expense and was a brilliant step forward into the future. What happened to that way forward then.

    • Ewart Less April 10, 2016 at 12:20 pm

      What happened to the 300,000 CEO saving or 4G by last Xmas, or “things can only get better” as promised by MH, AM, DM, RM, DP ?
      We haven’t gone forward on anything of strategic value under the current leadership.
      Time for someone who is both competent and more interested in the Islands than their own ego to take the helm.

      • Jonny Exile April 15, 2016 at 11:44 am

        There isn’t and there never was a saving of £300K nor of any other amount.

        I can remember a meeting last year when a councillor had to ask Leijser at least three times about his ‘savings’ before it became clear that there was no saving in any meaningful way whatsoever. If I said Leijser’s explanation amounted to deducting one imaginary figure from another I would be flattering him.

  4. High Lanes Drifter April 5, 2016 at 7:46 am

    There are two ways to improve the perception of the Islands as viewed by Whitehall mandarins or persons of note.
    1 give the chairman a greatly reduced allowance so she is unable to attend or,
    2 pay her double the current upper limit on the strict condition that she remains at home.
    Either way the Islands would be better served.

  5. Fred Up April 4, 2016 at 8:21 pm

    Skype! Skype, Skype!!! Save us money and Skype

    • Hudson April 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

      Fred, be fair Skype affords zero opportunity for either shopping in the capital or enriching an otherwise humdrum existence by staying at a nice hotel near to real museums.

    • fed up now April 5, 2016 at 9:39 am

      from an IT point of view, Skype is NOT considered secure – it uses a proprietary encryption that, last time i checked, had NOT been sufficently peer-reviewed to pass GCSX accreditation. This is true of most non open-source encryption methods. The knock on effect is that nothing sensitive (in central govt eyes) can be discussed in the presense of an improperly secured connection.
      Please bear in mind, i am not saying that the council regularly discuss necluer secrets, just anything considered worthy of at least a ‘part 3’ item – anything at all that could be used to identify an individual, anything involving an individual’s finances, anything at all which could be used in any way to damage an individual directly.

      The council, if my memory serves me right, actually have a number of video conferencing systems of various formats. It might be a good money saving move to start letting off-island councillors video conference in to meetings, instead forking out for specials every time there is a late meeting?

      • Klondyke Kate April 7, 2016 at 1:12 pm

        This is where the use of VPN links over a secure connection and through a properly configured firewall can be used. It is not beyond the realms of the council to use this technology and it has been used before! I do not blame the council and it’s IT Dept for not persueing this technology because they do use it, it is down to some of the members not willing to embrace it.

        • fed up now April 15, 2016 at 1:30 pm

          not really, no.
          VPNs are a site-site link, whereas skype runs via MS servers somewhere in the world. VPNs as security for comsumer skype would require MS allowing VPN connections from all skype users to ms servers, as well as an enforcement of particular settigs (ie AES-128 or above, not anything NIST certified or proprietary).
          I agree that the council probably have the knowledge within their IT dept, but it wont make normal skype suitable. Most importabntly though, as you said, it doesnt matter what the worker bees do if the members refuse to utilise it

    • Klondyke Kate April 6, 2016 at 10:23 pm

      It’s almost as if we need some way of sending HD pictures and sound of ourselves across thousands of miles but with minimal transmission loss… Something fast… Even superfast… I guess it’s all a distant dream to have such wonderful technology.

  6. Adam Morton, St.Martins April 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I wonder in this day and age with all the means of communication available, how many face to face meetings really need to be made? Email or letter is particularly good and can prevent confusion, u turns & misrepresentation when there is evidence of who said what .