Just weeks after making 252 council staff redundant, Wiltshire councillors have voted themselves a whopping increase in their taxpayer funded allowances. Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott sees her allowances balloon by 36.3 per cent, giving her an extra £14,000 a year. The council’s cabinet members see their allowances go up from £15,101 a year to £18,433, while all 53 councillors see their basic allowances rise by £122 a year.
Cllr Scott justifies the increase with the tired old public sector argument that you’ve got to pay high wages to attract good talent—whatever happened to public service, eh? ‘I think it is important that it’s not the people but the positions,’ she says. ‘It is about positioning the council in the right place to get the right people to do these jobs.’
‘At a time when the Council has had to make necessary savings, shedding several hundred staff and freezing pay for others, it is outrageous in the extreme that councillors have voted to increase their own allowances,’ says the TPA’s Political Director Jonathan Isaby.
‘The last thing hard-pressed Wiltshire families deserve is for their elected representatives to be taking home more taxpayers’ money for themselves. Regardless of the independence of the panel that came up with these proposals, Wiltshire councillors should have rejected them. How can the county’s leading councillors retain the moral authority to oversee the necessary savings in the years ahead after taking these inflation-busting rises?’
’Put yourself in the position of a member of the public, they are going to slaughter us and rightfully so,’ says the down-hearted leader of Wiltshire’s independent councillors. It’s certainly made his job more difficult. Twenty-eight councillors opposed the rise, but the leading party in the council pushed it through.
It is also interesting to note that in addition to their basic allowances, Wiltshire councillors are allowed to claim Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) for sitting on various committees. For the year 2011-2012, 95 out of 98 councillors received some form of SRA—an enormously high percentage. On top of that Wiltshire councillors are almost unique in being able to claim two SRAs at the same time, so Cllr Scott has added £9,216 to her income by being Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board. It’s certainly added to her financial sense of wellbeing!