Petition fights council rise
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