West Sussex County Council approved an increase in members expenses today (Friday October 18) at a time when the authority is facing £140m cuts.
Despite some opposition a proposal to increase members allowances by one per cent, a change of mileage rates from 53.8p to 59.25p, and a 2.7 per cent increase in subsistence costs, was passed.
As the County Times exclusively revealed earlier this month WSCC is facing the prospect of finding £140m savings on top of £79m already identified.
When county council employees were facing challenging conditions Mick Clark (UKIP, Saltings) said: “It’s a question of leadership. You can’t ask people to do something you would not want to do. It stinks. It’s wrong.”
At a time when they were looking to scrap hundreds of youth worker positions Chris Oxlade (Lab, Bewbush & Ifield West) said: “I worry if we are sending the right message to residents who have had their services cut.”
Bob Lanzer (Con, Maidenbower) thought that ‘on balance the recommendations are sound’ and added: “I do think as well all of us are free to exercise whatever principles we believe in.”
Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate & Three Bridges) said: “There’s an issue of symbolism behind this. You can’t argue you should be increasing your own allowance when you are demanding sacrifices from others.”
Readers took to the website to express their outrage at proposals.
User Tattybrain said: “Even unpaid volunteers who drive and deliver Meals on Wheels in their own cars don’t get anywhere near that mileage allowance (about 42 pence per mile I think).”
Musgrave added: “Can’t believe they are even asking the question, disgusting. HMRC only allow 40p/mile for the fist 10k and thereafter 25p.
“A reality check is needed, when services for elderly and disabled people is being cut they should be ashamed.”
Others were more tempered, with mac04 down playing a one per cent rise in members’ allowances.
Before the vote Sue Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green & Ifield East) said that whatever some said about rejecting increases to allowances it would be reported in the media as ‘West Sussex County Council voting themselves an increase’.
But Bill Acraman (Con, Worth Forest) thought that changes were necessary for people who had to work, so the council attracted people other than just pensioners.
He explained: “As a result you get old [people] who are over the hill and past it and are on the way down the other side.”
Morwen Millson (LDem, Horsham Riverside) said she did not support the increase in mileage rates, which she described as being ‘outlandishly high’.
Peter Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield & Lucastes) added: “The work load is changing and increasing as the Government pushes more and more stuff down to local councils so the demand and work load are increasing. That’s something that’s obvious for people who are privileged to do the job.”
Philip Circus (Con, Storrington) said that sticking to an established formula was the best way to remove some of the disquiet around councillors’ allowances.
What do you think of the changes to members allowances and expenses? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org