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SLDC rejects call to cut £285,000 paid to councillors
COUNCILLORS have rejected a call to take a cut in the £285,000 claimed by them for doing the role.
Member of the public, Ian Kell, of Mealbank, proposed they take a 10 per cent cut at a full meeting last night (Dec 17) of South Lakeland District Council.
He said that in an era of austerity, elected members needed to reduce the £285,355 claimed last year in allowances, subsistence and travel.
The retired academic spoke as the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) - an allowance-setting committee featuring members of the public - reported its annual review.
It agreed the basic £3,380 allowance councillors can claim should not be increased, although there will be nationally-linked rises in what they can submit for food, drink and travel expense claims.
Mr Kell told the chamber: “Throughout the year we, your electorate, have been regaled by you and your county counterparts with the need for cutbacks in virtually every budget that delivers services and comforts valued mainly by the least privileged and most needy.”
“All budgets must be subject to cuts except one, apparently - your take from the public purse. As the season for giving approaches would it be such a hardship for you to take a 10 per cent cut in your take?," said Mr Kell.
“Just think what benefit, what joy - the £300,000 you give back to them (constituents) could bring to the most deserving of those who will find it hardest to pay their SLDC council tax in 2014.”
However, Lib Dem front bencher Coun Clare Feeney-Johnson added: “I have a young family and if members of the public realised how many hours I put in they would be very shocked and would not do it themselves, I’m sure. We don’t want a room of councillors only wealthy enough to give their time for free, because people like me couldn’t afford to do it.”
And Tory councillor Andrew Gardner said: “If people feel that way and want to represent their area, put themselves forward for election. I actually lose money being a councillor.” David Holden, chairman of the panel, told the meeting: “We have a duty to be fair to members but we are very aware of public perception as well.”
The council says it is required by law to maintain an Independent Remuneration Panel and annually review allowances for members.
Debbie Storr, SLDC Director of Policy and Resources, said: “The current arrangements for members’ allowances for 2014/15 will remain the same as the current year. The list of approved duties for travel and subsistence is to be continued. There will be no change to Childcare/Dependant Carers’ Allowance and there will be no increase to the Co-optees’ Allowance.”
Earlier this year, Mr Kell told the Gazette how he applied for a role on SLDC’s IRP but was not appointed despite being recommended by council managers.
His subsequent Freedom Of Information request showed that his interviewers found his ‘forthright views’ might cause ‘friction’ on the IRP.
However, SLDC said councillors decided instead to ‘broaden the field of candidates’ on the panel in terms of ‘gender, geography and skills’.
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