Politics - Voting yourself a nice pay rise

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I remember this time last year that a discussion took place regarding the 23% increase in county councillor’s allowances.

This year was a modest 2.5% increase. I had to laugh when a county councillor was interviewed on TV and tried to justify the increase. The thing is he had an option, if you are not happy with the terms and conditions of becoming a councillor, don’t whinge and wine after you are elected, don’t put your name forward. Then the county council has a cheek to put up their share of the council tax.

West Lindsey has just voted on a 1.5% increase in their allowance. This we were told would not affect the overall budget as the number of councillors has been reduce by 1, from 37 down to 36. This saving would cover the cost of the increase. This was thanks to the boundary commission and not the politicians.

There was also a vote to pay the full allowance to the two vice chairs on the same committee, even though this went against the recommendation of the independent remuneration panel.

We could cut councillor numbers even further by going over to unitary authority, I believe the leader of the county council has shown some interest in this.

Are councils a little too economical with the truth or can we call it ‘smoke and mirrors’. We have been told that West Lindsey’s part of the council tax has been frozen for the past four years. True, but handouts from the government has helped keep the increase down, up to £144,000 in some years, equating to a 2.5% rise. There are no more handouts. So is there a council tax increase in the offing?

We’ve been told that there have been no cuts in services. We have to understand what they mean by the word ‘cuts’. You can keep a service going but reduce its effectiveness. Like changing waste collection from weekly to fortnightly,

or reduce green bin collection from 10 months to 8 months. Planning is another problem area, it can take up to 8 times longer to get things processed.

That’s if you are not supplied with the wrong forms or your application doesn’t go missing. All part of life I suppose! Staffing has also been cut (sorry reduced), people have left and they have not been replaced or their position has been made redundant and they are asked to reapply.

It’s all to do with cut backs (there’s that word again). The government is bleeding money and it has to get it from somewhere, councils are an easy option. Be honest politicians, less of the ‘smoke and mirrors’.

Let’s go back to councillors allowances. Councils spend time and money promoting localism and volunteering. Without the enormous amount of volunteering hours that takes place every day and night, it would be a very sad place to live. There are also volunteer councillors, these are the men and women who feel passionately about where they live and serve on the 128 parishes, 78 of these are parish or town councils.

The sad fact is that some county and district councillors feel that volunteering is below them and feel they must get paid for any extra work they do, even thou joe public out there are struggling to make ends meet.

You don’t need any qualifications or experience to be a councillor but you can vote yourself a 2.5% pay rise, nurses only got 1%. I know who I’d rather give the 2.5% rise to.

Ken Bridger

Market Rasen District Councillor