Pe­ti­tion call for coun­cil to scrap 15% al­lowance rise

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - NEWS - By Paul Fran­cis Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor pfran­cis@thek­m­group.co.uk @PaulOnPol­i­tics

A pe­ti­tion has been started, urg­ing county coun­cil­lors to scrap their de­ci­sion to vote for a 15% hike in their al­lowances.

The pe­ti­tion could lead to a pub­lic de­bate forc­ing the coun­cil to de­fend the rise, which has pro­voked wide­spread crit­i­cism.

The call for a re­think is the lat­est twist in the saga af­ter the Con­ser­va­tive-led coun­cil ig­nored a rec­om­men­da­tion from an in­de­pen­dent panel that said the 81 mem­bers should have a 1.5% rise.

In­stead, they voted for a 15% across- the- board in­crease – mean­ing an ex­tra £978,000 on the costs of pay­ing county coun­cil­lors over the next four years.

Kent also be­comes one of the most gen­er­ous in the UK for mem­bers’ pay. The pe­ti­tion, lodged on the coun­cil’s web­site, states: “They said high pay would en­cour­age younger and more di­verse peo­ple to be­come coun­cil­lors, yet they re­viewed no al­ter­na­tive meth­ods to achieve their aim. Many coun­cils use even­ing meet­ings, or vary se­lec­tion pro­cesses, to en­cour­age a range of peo­ple to be­come coun­cil­lors.

“I would like the coun­cil to find a method to en­cour­age di­ver­sity – a good plan de­serv­ing a thor­ough re­view – at a much lower cost. At a time of aus­ter­ity and a 1% pub­lic-sec­tor pay cap it is in­ap­pro­pri­ate for KCC coun­cil­lors to ig­nore in­de­pen­dent ad­vice and vote for them­selves to re­ceive this rise.”

Pe­ti­tion or­gan­is­ers face an up­hill bat­tle to trig­ger a de­bate at a full coun­cil meet­ing as they need to se­cure the sig­na­tures of 12,000 peo­ple. It is un­der­stood the pe­ti­tion or­gan­iser is Joanne Bart­ley, who leads the cam­paign group Kent Ed­u­ca­tion Net­work, which op­poses gram­mar schools.

Suc­cess­ful pe­ti­tions in the past forc­ing the coun­cil to hold a de­bate in­clude one ask­ing for the fee for the coun­cil’s free­dom pass – a bus pass for 11- to 16-yearolds – to be cut, and one lead­ing to a de­mand by par­ents in Sevenoaks for a gram­mar school an­nexe.

Kent County Coun­cil leader Paul Carter; coun­cil­lors have voted for a 15% in­crease in their al­lowances

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