COUNCILLORS have voted to keep their allowances at the same level and reject an independent panel’s suggestion of a two per cent increase.
But there were accusations of playing politics as an opportunity to reduce by ten per cent the special allowance, which councillors receive for additional duties, was rejected.
There appeared to be unity in the chamber with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats proposing to hold expenses as they are but the Labour Group introduced a late amendment to see special allowances cut by 10 per cent.
Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) introduced the motion saying it was important that councillors were seen to be contributing to budgetary savings, believing it would send a strong message to residents.
But it was rejected, with the Conservatives voting to stay with the original plan of keeping allowances the same and accusing Labour of playing politics with a sensitive issue.
Coun Grant said after the vote: “I am disappointed that the Conservative Group didn’t share our view that a slight cut in some councillors’ allowances would have sent a positive message to residents that councillors aren’t immune from the council’s budgetary savings process.
“It is true that all of the political parties’ responses to the vote on councillor allowances was political as we all recognised many people are struggling at the moment and we all therefore rejected the independent remuneration panel’s recommendation for an increase in councillor allowances.
“The only difference between the views of Labour and Conservative councillors is that we thought a small cut in some allowances would send a more positive message to residents and they didn’t.”
He said: “I am disappointed that we could not get cross-party agreement because I had talked with the other parties before as I don’t think having public disagreement shows the council in the best light.
“It seems Labour wanted to make some political gain from the issue and turned it into a debate.
“We have the remuneration panel and I believe we should listen to them.
“They recommended a rise but I did not feel it was appropriate in the economic climate.”
During the debate, the value of the remuneration panel was questioned as it was felt by some their recommendation was regularly ignored by councillors.
The panel is made up of six people who are each paid £200 and is a statutory requirement.
There is currently a space on the panel. Anyone interested in the vacancy should contact Ian Willcox on 01793 463601, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org by February 7.