North Herts councillors vote themselves two-per-cent rise

PUBLISHED: 15:09 19 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:23 19 January 2018

North Herts District Council's members have voted themselves a two-per-cent rise. Picture: Nina Morgan

North Herts District Council's members have voted themselves a two-per-cent rise. Picture: Nina Morgan

Archant

North Herts District Council’s members last night voted themselves a two-per-cent allowance rise.

The Spirella Building, where last night's meeting was held. The Spirella Building, where last night's meeting was held.

The increase was approved at a meeting for all members at Letchworth’s Spirella Ballroom, a year after councillors voted to raise allowances by 10 per cent.

Two Conservative members of the Tory-controlled district council, Nicola Harris of Hitchin Highbury and Sarah Dingley of Royston Heath, voted with Labour and the Lib Dems against the rise.

The basic allowance for each of the 49 councillors is now £5,100 per year, with special allowances for members holding positions such as leader, portfolio holder or committee chairman.

Councillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC Councillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Herts District Council. Picture: NHDC

Council leader Lynda Needham told this paper: “The member’s allowance scheme is based on the rules set out in national legislation, and the levels of allowances paid are formulated by an external independent remuneration panel who report to the council on what is appropriate – and based on comparisons with other comparable councils. This inflationary increase will help to ensure that larger increases will not be necessary in future years.”

Allowances for North Herts members remain lower than in adjacent authority areas, such as Labour-controlled Stevenage – where the 39 borough councillors last year received annual basic allowances of £7,501 each. The special allowance for the North Herts leader Mrs Needham is now £15,300, compared to £21,058 for Sharon Taylor in Stevenage.

But North Herts Labour group leader Frank Radcliffe said that in voting the rise through, councillors were “not listening to their constituents or the public”.

NHDC Labour group leader Frank Radcliffe. Picture: Layth Yousif NHDC Labour group leader Frank Radcliffe. Picture: Layth Yousif

He said: “They’ve brought in this ‘brown bin tax’, they’re closing playgrounds, they’re continuing with austerity. This isn’t the way to engender goodwill towards the council, especially considering the Hitchin Town Hall and Churchgate debacles.”

Lib Dem leader Steve Jarvis agreed, saying: “I don’t think it’s appropriate to vote this through when there are so many examples of how they’re not delivering.”

Mrs Dingley, one of the two Conservatives to oppose the rise, said: “I’m uncomfortable about accepting a rise in the allowance, even though it is only £100 a year, when we are striving to make savings to the budget. There is a principle involved and I think it sends the wrong message.

“I’m disappointed it went through, even though I understand the argument given by my colleagues about fair remuneration. I think we could have waited until there was more flexibility in the finances.”

The full vote was as follows:

For (24):

• David Barnard (Conservative, Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo)

• John Bishop (Conservative, Kimpton)

• John Booth (Conservative, Letchworth South East)

• Julian Cunningham (Conservative, Letchworth South East)

• Bill Davidson (Conservative, Royston Meridian)

• Faye S Frost (Conservative, Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo)

• Jane Gray (Conservative, Codicote)

• Jean Green (Conservative, Royston Palace)

• Steve Hemingway (Conservative, Knebworth)

• Terry Hone (Conservative, Letchworth South West)

• Tony Hunter (Conservative, Royston Meridian)

• David Levett (Conservative, Letchworth South East)

• Bernard Lovewell (Conservative, Hitchin Walsworth)

• Jim McNally (Conservative, Baldock Town)

• Alan Millard (Conservative, Hitchin Walsworth – council chairman)

• Lynda Needham (Conservative, Letchworth South West – council leader)

• Janine Paterson (Conservative, Arbury)

• Mike Rice (Conservative, Letchworth South West)

• Ray Shakespeare-Smith (Conservative, Hitchin Priory)

• Valentine Shanley (Conservative, Baldock East)

• Harry Spencer-Smith (Conservative, Cadwell)

• Claire Strong (Conservative, Hitchwood, Offa & Hoo)

• Richard Thake (Conservative, Hitchin Priory)

• Michael Weeks (Conservative, Baldock Town)

Against (13):

• Ian Albert (Labour, Hitchin Bearton)

• Clare Billing (Labour, Letchworth Grange)

• Judi Billing (Labour, Hitchin Bearton)

• Paul Clark (Lib Dem, Hitchin Highbury)

• Elizabeth Dennis (Labour, Hitchin Walsworth)

• Sarah Dingley (Conservative, Royston Heath)

• Gary Grindal (Labour, Letchworth Wilbury)

• Nicola Harris (Conservative, Hitchin Highbury)

• Steve Jarvis (Lib Dem, Weston & Sandon – Liberal Democrat group leader)

• Ian Mantle (Labour, Letchworth East)

• Frank Radcliffe (Labour, Hitchin Oughton – Labour group leader)

• Deepak Sangha (Labour, Letchworth Wilbury)

• Martin Stears-Handscomb (Labour, Hitchin Oughton)

There were no abstentions.

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