COUNTY councillors have an opportunity to examine their consciences and reconsider the decision to award themselves an increase in expense allowances of 25 per cent.
It was not long ago that George Osborne, in justification for major changes affecting all of us, said ‘we are all in this together’. He suggested that everyone had to help pay for the current economic problems.
Of course, that has not applied to the bankers and executives of the top FTSE companies, and now our elected representatives have joined in by awarding themselves a massive increase in their allowances. This is at a time when they are cutting services, effectively reducing the wages of their employees and also cutting back hard on jobs.
Clearly, our elected representatives do not consider they have a duty to help out in the current economic climate.
Councillor Nick Clarke [leader of the county council] said he wanted to break down barriers that stopped people standing for election. If there were a financial problem in getting people to be elected there would be vacancies: where are they? Everyone knows that to be elected you have first all to be an active member of the Conservative Party (and in some areas the Liberal Democrats). You then have to be chosen by a select band of members of that party. Outsiders have virtually no chance of ever being elected.
Cllr Jeff Dutton complained that those protesting outside Shire Hall were probably getting more in benefits than he was getting in allowances. The fact that he also gets allowances as a district councillor as well as pension entitlements seems to have escaped his notice. There may have been members of the public who were protesting, receiving benefits, but they were living on those benefits: they are not top up payments.
Councillors should not kid themselves that only those who were actively protesting are aghast at this proposition and they should think again. The problem is that all the people I have spoken to about this turn of events are not at all surprised this is happening.
This is what they expect from those in authority.