Councillor condemns allowance increase

A LIBERAL Democrat councillor for Royston has condemned the decision to increase North Herts District Council councillors’ allowances as “completely unneeded.”

Royston Palace ward Cllr Robert Inwood has attacked Conservative councillors after they agreed with recommendations by the Independent Remuneration Panel (IRP) at a council meeting last Thursday, which could cost NHDC over �65,000 if councillors accept the allowances rise.

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats voted to postpone the increases, which includes an 18.5 per cent rise for councillors’ basic allowances from �3,798 to �4,500 and a 68 per cent rise for the leader of the council, believing the recommendations should be deferred until the following year at the earliest.

The decision comes following the IRP’s report which found that NHDC councillors had the lowest allowances when compared with 16 surrounding authorities.

Cllr Inwood has suggested that it was the wrong time for any increase to occur considering the economic climate. He said: “In today’s climate they should have deferred it for at least another year. This would give us more time to take a look at the financial situation.

“I don’t think it’s necessary this time round. This time next year we could be in an even worse a financial state.”

Cllr Inwood, who did not accept the basic allowance increase last year and does not claim expenses, agreed with a statement from Hitchin-based Lib-Dem Cllr Lisa Courts which read: “With the council implementing massive cuts across all services I find this self-centred pay-rise totally unacceptable.

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“As our residents make tough financial sacrifices during these uncertain economic times, I would have hoped Tory councillors would have recognised this and decided to vote with Lib-Dem councillors to postpone any pay increase.”

Leader of the council Lynda Needham, who voted for the increases along with 32 other Conservative councillors but will not be taking it herself, said: “A lot of members will not be taking this increase, it’s just to give members the opportunity to stop having to pay for their expenses out of their own pockets.

“That’s not to say it wasn’t a very very difficult decision in this present climate, and this was taken after a great deal of thought.”

Cllr Needham also highlighted the need to ensure anyone can become a councillor, adding: “If we look at the cost it’s only one section of the public that can put themselves forward as they can afford to do it.”

But Cllr Inwood disagreed with Cllr Needham’s claim that this will encourage people into politics. He said: “An increase in North Herts of �700 won’t encourage people to become councillors.

Money shouldn’t be the motivation.”