IN last week’s Hunts Post you asked for comments on the decision of Cambridgeshire County Council to increase councillor’s allowances by 25 per cent, although I now understand that the procedure for making this decision has not been properly followed.
Can we therefore hope that either the decision is revoked or, if it is taken again, that enough of those who forced this through by just four votes may have the opportunity to change their minds when they realise the selfish errors of their ways?
You say that most of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent councillors as well as the UKIP member voted against the increases, and I understand that the opposition included the Labour councillors. All of this I would have expected which makes me particularly angry that one Liberal Democrat, Geoff Heathcock, voted for the increase. The willingness of four Conservatives to vote against this increase is to their immense credit, and I am pleased that two of them, Sir Peter Brown and Laine Kadic, represent Huntingdon.
But it is their Conservative colleague in Huntingdon, Jeff Dutton, who seems to have behaved in the most objectionable way, and not just with his vote. His reported comments that “those protesting outside Shire Hall were probably getting more in benefits than councillors got in allowances” do not surprise me but are completely unacceptable from the person who, as chairman of Huntingdonshire District Council is apparently our “first citizen”. He brings shame, not only on himself, but on all of us in Huntingdon.
Presumably Cllr Dutton, in addition to his £7,610/£9,500 county allowance, £4,235 district allowance and £3,763 district chairman’s allowance now receives his state pension, thus receiving over £20,000 in publicly-financed benefits. An apology from him would be in order.
I also trust that all of those who voted against the increase will refuse to take it, or take it and gift-aid it to one of the many charities who have had their funding cut.
Although I am totally opposed to these massive increases, particularly at present, I am not one of those who would get rid of all allowances and return us to the “good old days” when none were paid. Then many councils, particularly county councils and the old rural district councils, met during the day and were dominated by the rich, self-employed and retired. As a young man in the early 70s I could not afford to stand for any of my local councils except for my parish council in case I got elected. That all changed in 1973 and resulted in more representative councils.