Suits you, sir!

March 07, 2013 11:15 AM

The Chairman of Durham County Council receives a councillor's basic allowance of £13,300, plus a special responsibility allowance (SRA) of £6,650. The vice-chairman receives the same basic allowance, plus a SRA of £3,325. What was not widely known though was that in additional to those allowances, a special clothing allowance is also paid. The chairman receives £8,580 a year, and the vice-chairman £4,280 - a total of £12,860. Currently, Cllr Linda Marshall is the chairwoman, and Cllr Pauline Charlton is the vice-chairwoman.

Leaving aside the fact that a clothing allowance is unneccesary, as councillors already have suitable clothing to attend civic events and meetings, what could £8,580 a year buy you? Well, I am not an expert in ladies' fashion, although I imagine £8,580 could buy many outfits and accessories, so I will stick to men's clothing.

A well known Savile Row gentlemen's outfitters would sell you seven suits (one for every day of a busy civic week) for £4,865. Seven shirts would cost £875, and they would sell you seven ties for a further £595 - a total so far of £6,335. That still leaves you with £2,245. If you then ventured into Harrods, you could buy three pairs of shoes for £1K, and a new overcoat for £750. That leaves you £495 to buy some cuff-links. You may still need some extra cash for dry cleaning bills, although if you negotiate a good deal when buying seven suits, with shirts and ties to match, you should have enough cash to keep you looking pristine throughout the year.

Joking aside, how Durham County Council can justify these egregious payments is beyond me. It should be an honour to represent your community. Civic heads already receive perks such as free meals and hospitality, as well as being chauffeur driven to every event they attend. Being paid enough to buy a wardrobe of clothes from some of the most expensive shops in the country, is wrong. It is wrong in the good times, and certainly wrong during the current economic climate where many people are struggling to pay their Council Tax bills. Council Tax is supposed to be spent on providing services, not on providing unaffordable perks for councillors.

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