An article in today’s Express & Star proves that it’s not just MPs abusing their expenses and claiming more than they’re due – our elected representatives in local government are at it too, as one Wolverhampton councillor is found to be claiming his full £26k allowance despite not having attended a meeting in two months.
It is important to point out that senior Wolverhampton City Councillor Jonathan Yardley has been pretty unwell, but it's still vital to ask whether he should really be receiving this substantial sum for duties he hasn’t been performing.
After discovering he had an irregular heartbeat, Cllr Yadley has decided to reside over 200miles away from Wolverhampton in Plymouth “for personal reasons”, and states in the article:
“I’ve asked not to be contacted at all by councillors or sent any correspondence”
So essentially, he’s admitted that he cannot and will not be acting as a city councillor or representing his ward residents at the various local authority engagements he would ordinarily be expected to attend. Indeed, Cllr Yadley’s workload has been handed to other Conservative councillors – fair enough, he clearly doesn’t feel up to the job, but then why will he still be receiving his full allowance until the end of the municipal year in mid-May?
Almost £18k of Cllr Yadley’s expenses are for ‘special responsibilities’ yet he’s been removed and replaced as the Tory spokesman on Community Safety. Taxpayers are now essentially paying a wage to someone who isn’t doing a job. Is this really fair when we’re all stretched for cash at the moment and this council in particular is constantly pleading poverty?
We shouldn’t forget that a councillor's allowance is exactly that – an allowance, not a salary. It’s paid to cover the costs of performing council duties, and though originally it may have been just enough to buy stamps and pay the phone bill, now it’s been vastly inflated and often, as in this case, surpasses the average wage. So much for doing the job out of civic pride! Nevertheless, regardless of a councillor's motives, there aren’t any grounds to argue that an allowance should continue to be paid even if members are taking an extended leave of absence. It wouldn’t happen in any other industry and it shouldn’t happen in local government. This is taxpayers’ precious money, and it should be conserved at every possible opportunity, and that includes halting allowances payments to an ‘out-of-service’ councillor.