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Political row brews in Swindon over police monitor
A POLITICAL firestorm has broken out over Swindon Council’s decision to pay £2,500 as a special responsibility allowance to the vice- chairman of a new body set up to monitor Wiltshire’s police and crime commissioner, Angus Macpherson.
Swindon Council agreed at Thursday’s full council meeting to allocate the cash to Coun Brian Ford (Con, Wroughton and Wichelstowe) in line with recommendations from the independent renumeration panel on councillors’ allowances, comprised of six members independent of the council.
This payment is on top of the basic allowance paid to each councillor, which will remain at £7,710 in 2013/14.
It was suggested by the panel on the basis it “reflected the responsibility, time commitment and knowledge required to perform the role, particularly during the transition period and development of the new panel.”
The Conservative administration pushed through the proposal, claiming it was a considerable commitment for the vice-chairman to do the job properly, but the Labour group said the role did not entail sufficient extra work to justify the payment – especially at a time when people were losing their jobs.
Coun Mark Dempsey, the deputy labour group leader, said: “Bearing in mind Swindon Council doesn’t pay an allowance to any other vice-chairman of any other committee, we’re concerned why we should make this change now.
“We accept that Wiltshire Council have agreed an allowance of £7,550 to the chairman of the committee, but should we follow suit at particularly a time when council taxpayers are counting the cost of the economic difficulties we have at the moment?
“I don’t think it’s going to be acceptable for allowances to be increased for the vice chairman role.”
He added that he had spoken to Coun Bob Wright and Coun Junab Ali, two Labour Swindon councillors on the new panel, and they assured him that there were no additional responsibilities for the vice-chairman.
Coun Rod Bluh, the council leader, said: “I hear what members are saying and I’m not out of sympathy within the context of what they say.
“This is a new post that’s being created.
“It’s not about increasing allowances, it’s about putting an appropriate allowance in place for a new post like we would do with any other post.
“It’s a considerable commitment for the chairman and vice-chairman of the panel if they’re going to do their jobs properly. It’s an independent panel that’s recommended it and if we’re going to get the structure right for the future, then we should go along with the advice.”
Coun Ford said the allowance related to the post and not to him – anyone could have filled the post.
He said there were extra duties, pointing out he had attended eight extra meetings, including interviewing for the independent panel members and meeting withMr Macpherson.