Pe­ti­tion fights coun­cil rise

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page - By Paul Fran­cis

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.

The pe­ti­tion lodged on the coun­cil’s web­site states: “An in­de­pen­dent re­port stated that Kent county coun­cil­lors should re­ceive a 1.5% pay in­crease. The coun­cil­lors ig­nored this rec­om­men­da­tion and voted for a 15% pay in­crease.

“They said that 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. A plan to en­cour­age younger peo­ple to be­come coun­cil­lors is a good one and de­serves thor­ough review.

“A 15% rise means KCC coun- cil­lors will be the high­est paid in the land, at a cost to tax­pay­ers of £978,848. I would like the coun­cil to find a method to en­cour­age di­ver­sity in the coun­cil cham­ber 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 a 15% pay rise.”

Pe­ti­tion or­gan­is­ers face an up­hill bat­tle to trig­ger a de­bate at a full coun­cil meet­ing as they need, un­der the rules, 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 that have forced 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-year-olds – to be cut, and the one that led to a de­mand by parents in Sevenoaks for a gram­mar school an­nexe.

Kent County Coun­cil leader Paul Carter

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