AS the chairman of the scrutiny panel which made the recommendations on councillors mileage allowances, I feel I must respond to the two letters on the subject (The Hunts Post, March 5). Anthony Barraclough wondered why we were recommending over 50 per

AS the chairman of the scrutiny panel which made the recommendations on councillors' mileage allowances, I feel I must respond to the two letters on the subject (The Hunts Post, March 5).

Anthony Barraclough wondered why we were recommending "over 50 per cent of the Inland Revenue recommended rate of 40p" (for Vehicle Emission Duty Band A vehicles). I think I can set his mind at rest: there were only 363 Band A vehicles licensed in the whole of the UK at the end of September - so the probability of one of his councillors owning one of them is slim indeed.

A councillor driving a Band B vehicle would be marginally better off under our proposals than they are under the present scheme. However Band A and Band B cars currently represent less than four per cent of cars on the road, so the vast majority of councillors will be worse off than before. I myself would be entitled to claim 30p - 25 per cent less than the Inland Revenue rate.

Cllr Downes also wrote in and proposed an alternative scheme: he also proposed it at the scrutiny panel meeting, where it gained no support. Even his Liberal Democrat colleagues didn't wish to spare his blushes and help him out. Little wonder: I know the public are right to ensure that those who represent them are not being paid excessive amounts, but I hope most people in the district would think that, with fuel at more than £5 per gallon, a 10p per mile allowance is just silly.

The scrutiny panel has never claimed its scheme is perfect or that the amounts are scientifically accurate. However, we do believe that providing incentives and disincentives for vehicles on the basis of their impact on our environment is the way forward.

Unlike the Inland Revenue, which has twice looked at a similar scheme and pulled away from it (to undertake more consultation), we have chosen to stick our necks out, make the change and show some leadership.

Who knows, by the time you read this, maybe the Chancellor will have caught us up and announced a similar scheme in his Budget.

Councillor JONATHAN GRAY

Kimbolton & Staughton Ward, HDC