Tories all in it to­gether at County Hall

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Helping Others -

It has been a tricky week for the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tives at County Hall, put on the back foot over the row about their 15% hike in coun­cil­lors’ al­lowances.

Still, you have got to ad­mire the ef­forts to avoid be­ing ex­plicit about the in­crease.

A re­port on the rec­om­men­da­tions made by an in­de­pen­dent panel was oblique to say the least.

“It seeks the views of mem­bers on the re-cal­i­bra­tion of the mem­bers’ al­lowance scheme and to con­sider and de­ter­mine the al­lowances scheme for 2017-21.”

Re-cal­i­bra­tion? Worth re­mem­ber­ing when you want a pay rise…

Still at least one Con­ser­va­tive showed he was in touch with the peo­ple who voted him in.

Tony Hills, elected in May for Rom­ney Marsh, told his col­leagues: “A 15% in­crease is not mas­sive.”

When there were some gasps from the op­po­si­tion benches at that, he re­sponded by say­ing: “No, I don’t be­lieve it is.”

In­deed, so miserly were the al­lowances that if he had to be a coun­cil­lor, he’d have to get an­other job. Feel his pain.

Pre­sum­ably, he made sure that he knew what he was let­ting him­self in for when he signed his nom­i­na­tion pa­pers.

Mean­while, a Con­ser­va­tive who made much of his de­ci­sion to not take an iPhone pro­vided for mem­bers be­cause it was a waste of tax­pay­ers’ money staunchly de­fended the in­crease in al­lowances.

Maid­stone coun­cil­lor Paul Cooper said: “There has been no in­crease for eight years... Over that time, staff have seen a 15% in­crease [in pay]... We should there­fore have the same.”

Fin­ger on the pulse, there.

Grave­sham county coun­cil­lor Tan Dhesi is juggling his KCC du­ties with those of be­ing MP for Slough but man­aged to make the full coun­cil meet­ing.

Ev­ery time he got up to speak, as­sorted Con­ser­va­tives en­gaged in some gen­tle rib­bing – ask­ing when he was re­turn­ing to his con­stituency.

When he said the vot­ers would see “coun­cil­lors as hav­ing their snouts in the trough” there were mut­ter­ings from Con­ser­va­tives about him tak­ing two salaries.

Yes, it was that kind of de­bate.

‘So miserly were the al­lowances, he’d have to get an­other job. Feel the pain’

Fi­nally, the £244,712 ques­tion.

That, in case you are won­der­ing is how much more tax­pay­ers’ money will be needed to fund the 15% in­crease.

So, where will the money be com­ing from?

Here’s the for­mal an­swer KCC gave: “This fi­nan­cial year the ex­tra cost will be funded from the un­com­mit­ted un­der­spend from 2016/17.

“In fu­ture years the cost of mem­ber al­lowances will be part of the usual round of bud­get-set­ting con­ver­sa­tions and de­ci­sions.”

In other words, the coun­cil hasn’t a clue.

Fol­low Paul on Twit­ter @ PaulOnPol­i­tics for all Kent’s po­lit­i­cal news and gos­sip

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