Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Councillors' Allowances Rise Rejected As Process Was Flawed


A controversial decision to raise county councillors’ allowances by 25 per cent has been thrown out after it was found that the process was flawed.
Mistakes made by the Tory-run Cambridgeshire County Council have wasted over £5,000 of public money and means the whole process must go back to square one.
The decision is a victory for Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats who had voted against the increase and campaigned to overturn the decision.
It came after former Liberal Democrat councillor, Clare Blair, called the issue into the council’s Standards Committee today (Tuesday, November 1) claiming the process broke the rules of the council’s constitution and government legislation.
Committee members agreed after discovering that the council had made serious errors in the process of appointing members to the Independent Remuneration Panel which recommended the 25 per cent increase in members’ allowances and failing to advertise its report for public comment.
Cllr Blair, a former Cambridge City Executive Councillor who represented East Chesterton, spoke at the Standards Committee meeting calling the whole process into question.
Later she said: “This whole process was flawed. The Conservative administration made one mistake after another by rushing this matter through the council.
“This is has been a terrible waste of public money. Now the process must begin again. I hope ordinary residents will also consider joining the new Independent Panel and that the Conservatives will see that a 25 per cent increase at this time is totally inappropriate.”
In the meeting Lib Dem group leader Kilian Bourke said: "To retrospectively ratify this decision would almost certainly lead to a judicial review, which could end up costing the council as much as the 25 per cent pay rise itself.
Later he added: "I welcome the fact that the 25 per cent increase will now be overturned, although the Tories should not have voted it through in the first place. The increase was totally inappropriate at a time of wage freezes, redundancies and cuts to frontline services and the public have made their anger at this decision clear.
"I want to thank the 3,000 people who supported our campaign to have the increase reversed. I have no doubt that the weight of public opinion contributed to the decision to scrap the report."