County councillor to refuse increase in allowance

A Norfolk County Councillor says he is refusing the 11% increase in allowances voted through at a Council meeting on 11 December at a time when many public services are facing cuts.

Norfolk County Council, County Hall, Norwich

On hearing the decision, Cllr Greg Peck, who represents the Reepham Division and was not present to be able to vote at Monday’s meeting, immediately wrote to the head of democratic services at Norfolk County Council to inform him that he will not be taking the increase.
County councillors voted, by 39 votes to 26 with two abstentions, to increase the basic allowance from £9,401 to £10,500 a year, despite an independent panel recommending it should stay at the current level.
Council Leader Cliff Jordan’s special responsibility allowance is rising 15% from £27,495 to £31,700, while the chairs of the adult social care and children’s services committees will get an increase from £13,747 to £15,809.
County councillors do not get a salary, but do receive allowances in recognition of the work they do to serve their communities.
Councillors are also entitled to travel allowances and subsistence rates, although the later can only be claimed in “exceptional circumstances”.
The increase, which will add £142,000 a year to the 84-member Council’s overall budget (£1.38 billion for 2017-18), will be backdated to May 2017.
Most conservative and independent councillors voted for the increase in allowances, while Liberal Democrat and Labour members voted against.
The decision comes as Norfolk County Council is consulting over millions of pounds of budget cuts and savings, including cutting £500,000 of subsidies for bus services and community transport and halving spending on children’s centres from £10 million to £5 million.
The Council is trying to cover a £125 million funding gap by 2022. It is also currently consulting on reducing the number of roads it grits in winter from 34% of the road network to 30%, which would save £200,000.
Cllr Peck said: “I could not in all conscience take this increase, however justified, when we are having to make large savings in the budget.
“The independent review did recognise that councillor allowances at Norfolk County Council are in the lowest percentile nationwide and that it would require a substantial increase to bring them up to even the national average.
“However, they recommended that a higher increase should take place in two years’ time. Now is the wrong time to do this.”
Cllr Peck has written to all 20 parish councils in the Reepham division expressing his views on the allowances increase.
Cllr Jordan has since revealed he will not be taking the increase, as have several other councillors, it is reported.

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