St Albans councillors vote against reducing allowances

PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 February 2017 | UPDATED: 13:23 27 February 2017

St Albans District Council.

St Albans District Council.

Archant

St Albans Conservatives have pushed for councillors’ allowances to be reduced, despite an independent panel saying the basic allowances given to councillors should be raised.

The move came after Herts county council backed recommendations to increase their allowances.

The motion to reduce St Albans district councillors’ expenses, against calls for a one per cent rise by an independent reumeration panel made up of members of the public, was proposed by Tory Stephen Hodgson.

Cllr Hodgson said: “Councils are in a new financial era and if we are to have the moral authority to carry through budget cuts at the same time as increasing council tax, we have to consider councillors’ allowances as part of the budget process.”

Cllr Jock Wright seconded the motion, saying: “The facts speak for themselves: St Albans has the 17th most expensive system out of 194 district councils.

“The cost of St Albans councillors’ basic allowances is 35 per cent higher than the average for Hertfordshire.”

They faced opposition from the Labour members of the council, with Batchwood councillor Malachy Pakenham saying cutting allowances would mean the council would be “as diverse as a Klu Klux Klan meeting” due to councillors being priced out of service.

Cllr Hodgson’s motion was not carried at the meeting.

The council’s Labour leader Roma Mills said after the meeting: “I do think allowances should be the panel’s responsibility, otherwise you are voting for your own income.”

Lib Dem councillor Chris White said: “A recommendation for a one per cent increase was given to the council.

“Whatever the panel suggests the council should pass.”

Both St Albans council and the county council use an independent remuneration panel to recommend how much in allowances each councillor receives.

The county council voted for a rise in their basic allowance of one per cent, as recommended by the remuneration panel.

Sandy Walkington, Sopwell’s county councillor, said the whole council voted for the issue: “There is a general presumption there is an independent body that assesses what the allowance level should be.

He agreed with Cllr White that whatever the panel says should be followed.

Cllr Hodgson said: “The motion was driven by the unique situation the district council is in.

“We have got to have options and one of the expenses we have not looked at from a cutting perspective is allowances.

“The idea of the panel is it gives the council advice, but it does not all the ability to take into account all the factors, such as what the public say.

“People I have spoken to have this sense when council tax is going up we have to look at all the options.”

The district council independent remuneration panel’s report can be read at www.stalbans.gov.uk


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