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Lib Dems Call For A Halt To County Councillors’ ‘Gravy Train’

Published on: 16 Oct, 2013
Updated on: 17 Oct, 2013
SCC sign Surrey County Council

SCC sign Surrey County Council

Liberal Democrats at Surrey County Council (SCC) are opposing moves to pay four Conservative councillors an extra £5,000 a year.

Speaking in the debate, in the County Hall in Kingston, Hazel Watson, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition said: “The Conservative administration has recently created four Cabinet Associate posts without proper justification and I regard them as totally unnecessary.

“The responsibilities of Cabinet members have not increased and so it begs the question why certain Cabinet members need an assistant to help them with their work. If Cabinet members are unable to cope with the work load they should be replaced with people who can.

“The decision to create Cabinet Associates with additional money in the form of Special Responsibility Allowances smacks of the administration giving jobs to the boys and girls. It comes across as a gravy train paid for by Surrey Council Taxpayers. The administration has already given Special Responsibility Allowances to 32 out of 58 Conservative councillors. It is getting to the point that Special Responsibility Allowances are not “special”, they are the norm. We need to remember that Surrey Council Taxpayers are footing the bill for the excessive number of allowances for councillors.

“The assumption seems to be that the Cabinet Associates will be paid at least £5,000 each in addition to the £185,000 total amount which is being paid to the Cabinet in Special Responsibility Allowances on top of their basic allowance of £11,791 per person. This cannot continue as it is ridiculously excessive.

“I would prefer the Cabinet Associate posts to be abolished. However, if this is not possible, I request this Council to ensure that the total amount being paid in Special Responsibility Allowances to the Cabinet and Cabinet Associates does not increase as a result of the additional posts. If the Cabinet Associates are to be paid £5,000 each for their work this should be deducted from the relevant Cabinet member’s allowance so that the burden on Surrey Council Taxpayers does not increase.”

Cllr Keith Taylor

Cllr Keith Taylor

Keith Taylor, a Conservative County Councillor who represents the Shere division said: “Cabinet Associates carry out a large number of duties as additional responsibilities are passed to Local Authorities and the workload of Cabinet Members increases. This was a one-off payment, in line with the recommendations of the Independent Remuneration Panel”.

County Cllr Fiona White (Lib Dem, Guildford West) said: “I was happy to second Hazel Watson’s motion opposing the increase in money paid to Conservative cabinet appointees.  In February, Surrey’s Conservatives voted to put up council tax by the maximum allowed without requiring a referendum.

Cllr Fiona White

Cllr Fiona White

“A lot of council tax payers are having to watch their pennies very carefully. Surrey have been criticised in the past for the number of members who get Special Responsibility Allowances and I think it is a slap in the face to Surrey residents to create even more allowances for members of the Conservative Group.

“This was a very poor decision by the ruling group and they should think again about their decision.”

Pauline Searle (Lib Dem, Guildford North) added: “The concern is that there are four Cabinet Associates planned at the moment at £5000 each, but in the future they could decide they need more. It seems to be open ended.”

Cllr George Johnson (UKIP, Shalford) later added: “Councillor Watson’s suggestion has my full support. Cabinet Members of Surrey County Council receive in allowances more than enough to justify her proposal that, if associates are actually required, any payment properly due to them should be deducted from payments already made, thus neutralising any negative effect on the public purse.

“In the light of this country’s current economic climate I find it hard to believe that there are still public servants, elected and unelected, who believe that the gravy train can roll on to their benefit, pompously and flamboyantly disregarding the views of a hard-pressed electorate, who do the paying.”

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