Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Allowances... (Tory snouts in the trough edition)

The major debate at today's council meeting was on a Lib Dem motion to freeze council allowances for the next four years and also cut mileage and other benefits to the levels given to staff.

This was a commitment that was part of our manifesto and went down extremely well on the doorstep. We might not have won a majority of seats on the council, but we still owe it to those who voted for us to pursue our policies.

You would have thought that the Conservatives would have been happy to go along with this. We even heard that they were planning an amendment to our motion so that they could somehow hijack it and claim it as their own.

We couldn't have been more wrong.

From the outset, the Tory leader Alex Robertson made it clear that his side would be voting down the plan. He claimed that a new review of allowances (there was one less than six months ago which set the current levels) might result in a recommendation to cut allowance levels. Yeah, right. When has that ever happened.

But Cllr Robertson's fig leaf was ripped away by his colleagues, all of whom said that a new review was needed so that councillor allowances could be put up.

Cllr Robertson's only other argument was that, of course, councillors could refuse to take all the allowances to which they are entitled.

To hear councillor after councillor argue that they deserve more tax-payers' money at a time when local people are feeling the pinch and we may have to make council staff redundant was incredible. I would have thought that our first duty ought to be to be to front line services rather than bumping up our own pay.

At the end of the debate, the vote split largely on party lines. At least two independent members voted with us and two other councillors abstained, but all the rest of the administration happily voted to get their snouts further into the trough.

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