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Councillors in £1m allowance bill

PUBLISHED: 09:02 12 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:13 01 July 2010

County council leader Daniel Cox

County council leader Daniel Cox

County councillors in Norfolk shared more than £1m in allowances last year, new figures have revealed.

County councillors in Norfolk shared more than £1m in allowances last year, new figures have revealed.

But the leader of Norfolk County Council said councillors offered good value for money, given the work they put in to serve the local community.

In the wake of the MPs expenses scandal, which cast a shadow over payments to politicans, the county council agreed last year to publish details on its website each month of the amounts which councillors claimed. Each year, local authorities are also obliged to publish the total payments made to elected members, showing how much was claimed between the end of March 2009 and the start of April this year.

Daniel Cox, leader at County Hall, said: “We are very much aware of the costs of democracy, not only in terms of running the council itself, but also the allowances for councillors.

“We are in the second year of a freeze on councillor allowances and I have reduced the size of my cabinet. We publish, not only the annual allowances as we are required to do, but also put them on our website each month for the public to look at.”

Mr Cox said councillors did deserve to get allowances for their work to help the electorate and take decisions to benefit the county.

He said: “Councillors put hundreds of hours into committes and in work in their divisions and I believe they do provide good value for money.”

Unsurprisingly, given he is leader of the county council, Mr Cox was paid the most allowance, with £34,895.80, less than the £36,980.56 he claimed the previous year.

Mr Cox's cabinet colleagues were also at the top end of the allowances table.

Harry Humphrey, cabinet member for fire and rescue and councillor, was paid £27,194.12, of which £4,837.42 was for travel and subsistence - the most claimed in the latter category by any councillor -but he does face a 122-mile round trip to County Hall from Emneth.

Shelagh Hutson, formerly cabinet member for children's services, claimed £24,534.35, while Ian Monson, formerly cabinet member for environment and waste, got £24,393.38. The pair left those posts in April.

Derrick Murphy, cabinet member for cultural services received £23,235.85, Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for travel and transport, got £22,738.78 and David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services, £22,359.81.

Allowances which can be claimed include the basic allowance of £8,954.29, which includes £25 back pay owed from the previous year and special responsibility allowances for those who have “significant” extra responsibilities, such as being leader, a member of the cabinet or chairman of overview and scrutiny panels.

Travelling and subsistence allowances are payable to councillors to reimburse them for costs incurred in carrying out certain council duties, such as getting to council meetings and meetings of outside bodies they represent the council on.

Members can claim mileage for such duties at the rate of 40p per mile, and with most meetings held at County Hall, councillors representing divisions further away from the city rack up higher travelling costs.

£21,609.66 was paid to Paul Morse, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, George Nobbs, leader of the Labour group got £9,444.75, while Andrew Boswell, who leads the Green group, received £8,975.43.

In total, 134 county councillors were paid just over £1.11m in allowances,compared to £1.12m paid to 86 in the previous 12 months. The difference in numbers was due to the county elections last year. Controversy over councillors' allowances broke out last year after it emerged Norfolk's twin hatter councillors - those serving on more than one authority - were claiming more than £1m in allowances. with average combined allowances topping £12,000.

To see what your county councillor claimed visit www.tinyurl.com/36utpgn

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