Henry Smith was apparently happy to complain about our MP’s expenses. Of course, we all know that our Henry would never, ever, put himself in a position where he could be accused of putting his nose into the trough.
Or would he…
According to the Evening Argus, West Sussex Council recently reviewed the councillor’s allowances. What happens is that an independent review panel is set up, and they make recommendations. The same happens at Crawley Borough Council, and when I chaired the relevant committee (the excitingly named ‘General Purposes Committee’), it was certainly expected that the review body’s recommendations would be taken as they stood, and certainly that councillors would be very careful before voting for more cash.
The WSCC review panel recommended a freeze on increases. So what did our elected servants in Chichester do? Did they accept a pay freeze, because as the panel’s report said, “Public service, rather than material reward, should be the primary motivation for involvement in local government.”
Well, er, no. They instead voted for increases. Three committee chairs will get an increase of 27% (that’s about 10 times the rate of inflation). The Cabinet members, such as Lt Col Tex Pemberton, get a 14% increase (a mere five times the rate of inflation).
Henry will have to make to with only an 11% increase (four times the rate of inflation) as Leader.
Now, WSCC will claim that because they didn’t spend money on a pension scheme for councillors, they’ve saved money. However, it’s only a matter of time before such a scheme is set up, and of course it will more than likely be a final salary one, so an allowance increase now just makes the scheme more expensive when it does come in. I predict it will arrive some time after the next County elections, or before if they can suddenly pull out one of their rare low tax increase budgets (rare? they happen every four years, by some sheer coincidence).
The allowance increases are apparently backdated to April.