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Reader letter: Look closely at council allowances

PUBLISHED: 17:11 15 February 2018 | UPDATED: 08:41 16 February 2018

James Bert Bremner, Norwich City councillor. Picture Archant.

James Bert Bremner, Norwich City councillor. Picture Archant.

Archant

Across Norfolk there needs to be a full, fair, balanced and detailed cross-party investigation of allowances paid to councillors.

One example is the fact that on Norfolk County Council the chairs of planning regulatory, Norwich Highways Agency Committee, audit, pensions, and personnel committees are all on £6,340 each year. Each of these committees meets only four times a year, except for county planning which is meant to have eight meetings. But county planning did not meet at all between March and December.

Sometimes the meetings are only an hour long, and in fact Norwich Highways Agency Committee only lasted 40 minutes last time and they cancelled the November meeting. If these meetings last two hours, and many seem to finish before that, they are paid over £790 an hour. How can anyone justify that?

If they quote pre-meets, training, and other things always remember other councillors are at these with no extra allowance at all.

I wanted to raise this with the independent group that advises the Norfolk County Council about this and suggest a massive drop in the allowances but I left the council in May 2017 and I was never told it was meeting to review the allowances. I believe that there should be an allowance for these chairs but should be set at something like £1,585 for the whole year.

At the same time there should be a review of all allowances for the Norfolk county and the district councils so that the vast differences and the workloads could be compared, and we could cut the obscene allowances in Breckland. How can the Breckland deputy leader, all their cabinet members and even the chair of their scrutiny and planning committees justify getting more than the Norwich leader?

Norwich City Council’s turnover is about £200 million. What is Breckland’s? They have at least 10 councillors on more than the highest allowance in Norwich and their top allowance is about £27,000, about what I was getting as a teacher.

I believe that allowances are totally necessary to help those from all backgrounds to be part of the democratic process and represent their area, but they need to be reasonable, not decided by councillors themselves and relate to responsibilities and work, with special investigation of the obscene, greedy excesses in Norfolk county, Breckland and maybe others.

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