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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

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Allerdale councillors vote to reject increase in their allowances

Allerdale councillors have voted to reject an increase in their allowances as people in the borough struggle to make ends meet.

Barbara Cannon photo
Barbara Cannon

The council made its decision after discussing a report by an independent panel, which recommended that their allowances should go up by one per cent from April.

Under the proposal, each member’s basic allowance would have gone up by one per cent to £2,996.32 for the year.

The move would have cost the council about £2,500 extra a year.

But deputy leader Barbara Cannon, who presented the report to councillors, called on them to reject the recommendation.

Councillors unanimously agreed to keep the allowances at their existing levels. Councillor Konrad Hansen said: “I’d be extremely uncomfortable taking this increase. We have got a reducing poverty strategy, we have got a foodbank crisis and we are facing a shortfall of funding for charities.”

Councillor Peter Bales said the council had not increased basic allowances since 2008 and they were now the lowest offered by the six district councils in Cumbria. He said he was concerned that the authority could fall into the trap of only attracting older and well-off people to stand for election, not young people new to politics.

But, he added, a new section of society known as the super poor had emerged who lived in fear of losing their homes, could not afford to feed their families and relied on foodbanks, making it difficult to justify any increase.

Councillor Andrew Lawson said: “In the grand scheme of things £2,500 isn’t a lot but when people are struggling to pay their gas and electricity bills and to eat and unemployment is high is it really right to take a one per cent rise? I don’t think it is.”

Councillor Joe Holliday added that he would not take the rise either.

He said: “The report says staff have had a one per cent rise. I think we have got to remember that about 20 per cent of the staff didn’t get a one per cent pay rise, they got redundancy.”

Council leader Alan Smith said: “If you come into politics on Allerdale you certainly don’t come into it for the settlement you get each year.”

If accepted, the recommendation would have seen the leader’s special responsibility allowance increase to £21,210, the deputy leader’s to £10,072.60 and those of other executive members to £5,495.83.

Committee chairmen would have received £2,747.92 on top of their basic allowances.

Councillor Bill Finlay formally proposed rejecting the recommendation.

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