25 per cent councillor allowance hike agreed at county hall

AN allowance hike of 25 per cent was this week agreed by Cambridgeshire County Councillors at a meeting picketed by protesters.

With the Liberal Democrat group boycotting the debate, although not the vote, councillors voted 33-29 in favour of increasing their allowances.

It means the 69 county councillors will see their basic allowance rise from �7,610 a year to �9,500.

Leader of the council Nick Clarke’s package will rise to �38,000 a year from �29,246. His deputy will be on �26,600 a year and nine others on packages worth more than �20,000 a year each.

The increases were opposed by just four Conservatives.

County councillor for Bassingbourn Linda Oliver voted in favour of the move, but said she would not take the increase herself.

“It’s five years since the last review and I agreed with the content of the report because I think it was very thorough,”she said.

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“It very much respected the view that being a councillor is a community service and public service role. We’re not there for any monetary reasons.”

Cllr Oliver said she supported the move for the benefit of future councillors, but because of spending cuts, totalling �161m, hitting the authority, she could not take the increase herself.

She said: “How can you possibly take an increase when people are losing their jobs – the county council is making people redundant. It’s absolutely wrong to take an increase in our allowances now.

“I have voted in favour of the report for the future, but no councillors are required to accept this now.”

The increase in members’ allowances brings CCC in line with Hertfordshire County Council, which has a basic allowance of �9,588, with leader Robert Gordon receiving a special allowance of �37,511 a year.

Protesters gathered outside county hall in a bid to influence the vote but to no avail, although some councillors stopped to talk with them.

One protester accused councillors of “having your snouts in the trough” while one banner proclaimed: “Being able to vote on it yourself – priceless”.

The review panel, which has met only five times since 1998, was chaired by Dr Declan Hall, an independent consultant specialising in members’ allowances.

“If local democracy is to prosper, people must have choice,” said Dr Hall.

“Choice means having candidates for council membership who have different backgrounds and life experiences.”

“Remuneration of elected members is one means of achieving that end.”