Tories all in it together at County Hall
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