Council leader speaks as allowances increase row continues to rage (From The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald)
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Council leader speaks as allowances increase row continues to rage
12:00pm Thursday 12th December 2013 in News
HUGE increases in councillors’ allowances were defended by Coun Jane Scott, leader of Wiltshire Council, for the first time yesterday, following weeks of silence.
During November’s full council meeting, members voted in favour of the recommendations by the Independent Remuneration Panel, which has seen Coun Scott’s allowances increase by nearly 40 per cent a year from £37,335 to £52,227.
Cabinet members’ allowances increased by at least 22 per cent, rising from £15,101 to £18,433 a year, while councillors’ basic allowances went up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.
The move caused public outrage and prompted business consultant Paul Gaunt to set up a petition calling for Coun Scott and her cabinet to resign, which has received over 2,000 signatures.
However, Coun Scott says that the allowances rise was justified.
In her first public statement on the issue, she said: “We are working in a more efficient way, but that does put an awful lot of pressure on all of us, both members and officers in the organisation, to deliver.
“The independent panel looked at that and they made their recommendation and I think it’s only right for the good running of the council in the future that we take that recommendation, because they thought what they put forward four years ago was wrong.”
She said: “If you compare the leader, for example, in Wiltshire – with nearly half a million people and a budget of nearly a billion – to Bath & North East Somerset with a leader that gets more than that with about a third of the number of people, you can understand why, when they compared, they said they got it wrong.
“They wanted to make it right, not for me, but for the people who come after me.”
During the summer, the council ran a voluntary redundancy programme in which 252 front-line staff decided to leave the organisation.
Seven of the council's 18 associate directors took voluntary redundancy, while the remaining associate directors saw their wages rise on average by 7.5 per cent.
Mr Gaunt said: “Councillor Scott’s comments just show how out of touch she is with the council tax and business rate payers of Wiltshire, while they are facing such harsh economic times.
“The current controversy surrounding the MPs’ pay rise pales in significance when compared to this allowances rise and I would urge anyone who feels strongly to sign the petition.”
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