Thursday, 24 August 2017

Councillors vote for 58% increase in allowance

COUNCILLORS in South Oxfordshire have voted themselves a 58 per cent increase in their allowance

COUNCILLORS in South Oxfordshire have voted themselves a 58 per cent increase in their allowance.

Henley councillors Lorraine Hillier and Joan Bland, who are both members of the ruling Conservative group, both voted in favour of the rise.

Stefan Gawrysiak, who represents the Henley Residents? Group, voted against.

An independent panel had recommended that the councillors? annual £2,900 basic allowance should rise by 21 per cent to £3,500.

But the council voted for a rise of 58 per cent to £4,575.

Councillor Gawrysiak, who is one of three out of 36 councillors not a Conservative, called the decision wrong.

He said: ?I do think district councillors should be paid a reasonable amount for the work that they do and I would have been perfectly happy with what the independent panel suggested. But the district council unilaterally decided to align their pay with the Vale of White Horse District Council. It went against the recommendation and I think that is wrong.?

Cllr Hillier, the Mayor of Henley, said that while the increase might appear ?brutal? the council was just playing ?catch-up? as the allowance had not gone up for years.

She said: ?The Vale pay their councillors more for an allowance and we didn?t see why we should be on a lesser rate.? Cllr Hillier said the previous council leader, the late Ann Ducker, had refused to raise the allowance. ?The problem was Ann would not go with the increases but she was quite comfortably off,? she said. ?There are so many things that councillors are expected to do and younger councillors who work have to take unpaid holidays or get staff to cover for them and it becomes very expensive.?

Cllr Bland said the higher allowance was necessary to enable councillors to fulfil their duties.

She said: ?We hadn?t had a rise in donkey?s years and it does stop people if they can?t subsidise themselves to go to meetings. The allowance is not a wage. We don?t get any IT support, we have to buy all our own equipment and computers. I keep going through shredders, which are quite expensive.?

If all councillors claimed all their new allowances it would cost the council almost £250,000 a year. Last year, the allowances bill was £198,000 but that was for 48 councillors before the number was reduced to 36. Councillors can also claim expenses, including travel, subsistence and care costs.

Twenty-six councillors voted for the rise, while Cllr Gawrysiak and Margaret Davies (Didcot South) voted against and David Turner (Chalgrove) abstained.

Those councillors who voted for the rise included Kevin Bulmer (Goring), David Nimmo Smith (Woodcote and Rotherfield), Richard Pullen (Benson and Crowmarsh) and Robert Simister (Kidmore End and Whitchurch).

Martin Akehurst (Sonning Common) Charles Bailey (Woodcote and Rotherfield) and Felix Bloomfield (Benson and Crowmarsh) were not at the meeting.

Paul Harrison (Sonning Common) did not vote as he is vice-chairman.

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