Councillors keen to show they are not in it for cash

DISTRICT councillors’ have recommended a freeze on their allowances but they will seek further advice from officers as to how broadband and smartphone costs will be covered.

Members of Warwick District Council’s executive committee last week proposed the freeze and also recommended that the authority’s deputy leader and its planning committee’s vice chairman be allowed to claim for special responsibilities.

The committee discussed a raft of minor savings recommended by a new independent remuneration panel, which included a drop in councillor’s basic allowances by £1 to £4,630 and cuts to teas served ahead of meetings at Leamington town hall.

Councillors were keen to express they are not “money-grabbing” at a time when council employees have not had a pay rise in the last three years with Cllr Moira-Ann Grainger (Con, Warwick North) describing the panel’s report as “offensive”.

Cllr Sue Gallagher (Con, Leek Wootton) said cutting teas, which cost about 59p per head, would prove more expensive with councillors then being able to claim up to £11.28 in subsistence.

Cllr John Hammon (Con, Cubbington) said: “It does rather make out we’re money-grabbing councillors and we’re not. I lose out immensely by doing this work.”

Council leader Michael Doody (Con, Radford Semele) said he had checked the figures for the allowances for 13 different councils.

He added: “The difference on the basic allowance is very small - the difference for portfolio holders just in Warwickshire goes up to almost £3,000 a year at the most and the leader something in the region of £4,000.

“It’s not an extortionate figure that I put forward to you but if you choose to go against it, it won’t get me excited but what will get me excited is that if you vote against it then you are also voting against our staff having their increase.”

Concerned by this suggestion, Labour group leader Cllr John Barrott (Leamington Willes) said: “It’s a separate report for the staff and they should not be linked and I am concerned about them.”

Cllr Michael Coker (Con, Kenilworth Abbey) said: “For five years I haven’t had a rise and it hasn’t worried me in the slightest.

“The very reason we have these panels is to stop this sort of back-biting admittedly over what is a proper allowance.

“I would be quite happy for it to be frozen, however if it is it should be frozen in the same way the staff’s is until the budget will allow us to afford it.”