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Should councillors get expenses tied to the average annual salary of their ward?

Claire Bibby thinks so. Who is Claire Bibby I hear you ask and why should we care what she thinks? Well she was an independent candidate in May for the Southchurch ward here in Southend and she got just beaten out in the last result of the evening. Well she has blogged on councillors expenses and you can read her views here but for those who can’t be bothered it is basically attacking councillors for having too many expenses and with a focus on the portfolio holders. Fair enough one might think but one thing really stood out to me:

The Tax Payers Alliance will be investigating councillors expenses, as the Tax Payers Alliance believe the expenses given to councillors are far too much, and the role of the local councillors is about providing a community service and should not come with expenses more than the average salary of the area they represent.

Err…come again?

So councillors in a more prosperous area such as say Thorpe Bay where both Claire and myself live and we can be honest here – the councillors do not have anywhere near as many issues as say Kursaal or Westborough councillors but councillors here in Thorpe Bay should be paid more than the Kursaal or Westborough councillors? That is to be frank a very scary proposition in my eyes. Why should councillors expenses be tied to the average salary that they represent? It would be saying that some councillors are worth more money than others – and whilst that is probably true as some councillors do work far harder than others – it should not be linked to the area that they represent and certainly not the councillors in richer areas having a larger expenses packet.

Expenses are there to ensure that councillors are not out of pocket for work they do linked to their council work. So for example help with travel costs going to see people, phone calls and the like. Now I don’t think I’m shocking anyone here when I say that councillors in certain areas have more work than others. There are more issues in certain areas. That is just the way it is but to link the average annual salary to their expenses allowances? Madness.

Councillors expenses should be scrutinised closely but councillors should not be out of pocket for work that they do. A councillor knows that they are going to give up time for their council work – that is part of the deal but they don’t need to be spending money out of their pocket. They get an allowance to cover these costs therefore they shouldn’t be out of pocket. If you change the way these calculations are made then you’ll get councillors trying to get the ‘premier’ wards financially and possibly leaving the less well-of wards with councillors who won’t work as hard and put the hours in because they’ll be out of pocket – and that is a scary thought.

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