This is the time of year when we learn how much councillors have been paid in allowances and expenses. It was reported in the Hull Daily Mail that a total of £1.2 million was paid to East Riding councillors for 2009/10 - an increase of £100,000 on the previous year. Although the council leader, Stephen Parnaby has said there will be a freeze on allowances next year (an election year), this compares very badly to Hull City Council where councillors have been on a pay freeze for the last four years.
This is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2005/6, at total of £946,208 was paid to Hull City councillors. In 2009/10, this increased to £955,409; a rise of 1%. In the East Riding, councillors were paid £906,000 in 2005/6. In just four years, councillors have seen their allowances and expenses rise by almost 25%. In the past year, when the rest of us have been struggling to make ends meet, East Riding councillors have enjoyed an increase of almost 10%.
The usual excuses will no doubt be reeled out, saying that councillors give excellent value for money, and they are only implementing the decisions of the Independent Review Panel. This is cold comfort for taxpayers who have seen their council tax bills rise, and have had to pay huge sums of money into the pension funds of senior staff who have applied for early retirement.
The gravy train has not hit the buffers, but perhaps, if we are lucky, we can say it has hit an uphill gradient. Time will tell.