Monday, 31 August 2015

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Cumbria county councillors reject allowances increase

County councillors have knocked back a proposed increase to their own allowances – instead opting to implement a series of cuts in payments.

Stewart Young photo
Stewart Young

An independent panel had recommended elected members of the local authority should receive a one per cent rise in basic allowance for their duties.

But the ruling Labour and Liberal Democrat group voted against the hike – saying a “febrile climate” towards councillors was the reason behind their decision.

The move, which was agreed at a meeting in Kendal yesterday, will save Cumbria County Council £12,000 on its spending for the year.

Council leader Stewart Young told the chamber he did not feel the time was right to accept an increase.

“We are enduring unprecedented times financially and taking very, very difficult decisions which affect people’s livelihoods.

“But in this febrile atmosphere the public seem to view all representatives in the same way and seem to think they are out for what they can get.

“However, the reality is that we are served tremendously well by the people who put themselves forward for election.”

Under the newly adopted recommendations, each of the council’s 84 members will receive an annual basic allowance of £8,240 – totalling £1.08 million a year.

This will include a fee for telephone line rental and broadband – expenses which have been settled separately in previous years.

But a number of special amounts paid to councillors with extra responsibilities have been axed – including £12,046 for each of the three party leaders within the authority and £1,954 for deputy leaders.

Instead, a sum based on the number of members in each group will be dished out to their respective figureheads.

In addition, the role of vice-chairman on a number of committees will no longer receive a fee for their role including those helping to lead the county’s five local committees who currently take home £1,954 each.

But the reductions were not enough for independent Carlisle councillor Robert Betton, who said he wanted to see a cut to the basic allowance of 10 per cent. “I do not think they recommendations go far enough,” he said.

“I know this will not be popular, but as a council we are cutting jobs and cutting services and it is only right we lead by example.”

John Lyons, chairman of the independent remuneration panel, said: “What has come through strongly in this process is the commitment of councillors towards the residents of Cumbria.”



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