Friday, 5 October 2012

Members allowances

I received an interesting call from a resident this afternoon during which she was complaining about the allowance I receive as a result of my role as council leader for what she described as "a couple of hours a week." She seemed astounded when I gave her some detail as to the time the role involved on a weekly basis and had also not realised that our allowances are taxable income with income tax being paid in the usual way. Apparently her misunderstanding had been encouraged by a leaflet from her local Independent Party councillor. It led to an interesting discussion about how our allowances are calculated. In particular she had no idea that they were based on recommendations from an independent panel which based its view on the time involved with our work as ward councillors together with any additional responsibilities undertaken. I was also able to explain that the panel made an initial assumption that the first block of time spent each month should be unpaid - representing a community contribution by members to the town with allowances being based on the additional workload over and above that. In fact the only allowances which are not recommended by the panel on the basis of the actual work undertaken are the additional allowances paid to the opposition leaders which are based on the number of members of their group. It does seem strange to me that Cllr Martin Terry the Leader of the Independent Group happily takes this allowance in full notwithstanding his constant claim that he is not a party leader but simply a group spokesman. Indeed other members of his group have regularly commented that Cllr Terry is not their "leader"! In the circumstances how does he justify receiving this "leader" allowance which in an even more bizarre twist has increased since Cllr Morgan left the Lib Dems and joined the Liberal Party. Because he also became a member of the Independent Group on Southend Council Cllr Terry gets an increased allowance. If they are a party without leader perhaps their leader allowance should be equally shared by them all! It would make it slightly easier to listen to Cllr Terry's regular chest thumping on the need to give a fair return for public money. In the meantime I am in no doubt that no local councillor of any party does it for the money - the return on the time spent could be improved by doing almost any other job but without the satisfaction of trying to make Southend a better place.

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