Council leader reveals he will not take allowance increase - but says decision to recommend it was about ‘fairness’
PUBLISHED: 09:39 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:41 14 December 2017
The leader of Norfolk County Council has revealed he will not be taking his allowances increase.
On Monday, Conservative leader Cliff Jordan recommended a basic allowance increase up to £10,500 and said his own special responsibility allowance as leader should go up to £31,700 from £27,495.
It came despite an independent panel saying it was “mindful” of potential budget cuts, including cutting subsidies for bus services and reducing spend on children’s centres, and recommending that the basic allowance should remain at £9,401.
The move - which will cost £142,000 across 84 councillors - attracted widespread condemnation.
But during a debate on BBC Radio Norfolk with Mr Jordan, leader of Labour on the council Steve Morphew and Liberal Democrat leader Dan Roper on Thursday morning, Mr Jordan said he would not be taking the increase.
Both Mr Morphew and Mr Roper said they would not be taking theirs, and hoped to donate it to community or charitable causes.
And when asked by presenter Nick Conrad whether he planned to take the increase, Mr Jordan said no, but that it was up to individual councillors whether they did.
“It will depend on individuals - the problem you’ve got in the county council, and it’s a big council, is for the majority of the rural county councillors, their expenses have gone up, particularly on fuel, stuff like that,” he said.
“It depends on individual councillors – their job is to look after people in rural areas, and services in rural areas always cost a lot more money.”
Mr Jordan did not confirm what he would do with the extra money, but said he regularly donates to charity.
He added that the increase was about “fairness” and said: “It was unfair, we’ve put it right.”
But Mr Morphew described the situation as “complete fiasco” and a “decision which should never have been taken”.
Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors voted against the rise.
“When Cliff first mentioned this to me I said something along the lines of ‘are you kidding’,” he said during the interview.
“I really couldn’t believe he was proposing to either to do it or to do it at this time. It seemed to be one of the most extraordinary or despicable things to do in the middle of the consultation.
“There isn’t any doubt that councillors probably deserved more, but at the same time so do public sectors workers.”
Mr Jordan admitted there was “never a good time” to vote for an increase.
Mr Roper said he would have been content to support a much lower increase.
“We had an independent look into allowances and expenses,” he said. “It basically said that six or seven councillors, based on work they were doing, should have a small increase.
“The total amount would have been about £7,000 or £8,000 a year. That reflects the work they do.
“£7,000 or £8,000 versus £142,000 - it doesn’t add up at all.”
The council is currently consulting over cuts as it looks to plug a £125m funding gap by 2022. The proposals include cutting £500,000 from subsidies for buses and community transport and reducing spending on children’s centres from £10m to £5m.