County council leader breaks silence and admits mistakes might have happened over allowances reviews
COUNTY council leader Nick Clarke broke his silence – at 7.28am yesterday to be precise- to vigorously defend the 25 per cent pay rise to councillors but also to admit mistakes may have happened.
“If any mistakes have been made, and yes that does happen from time to time, in appointing the independent panel I am sure they will be corrected,” he wrote on his blog.
“Apart from agreeing that the review should take place, with other group leaders, and being interviewed by the panel, I have deliberately stayed as far away from the review as possible to ensure I had no influence over it.
“I am so pleased that one of the panel was a senior boss at Archant, the publication company that owns the Cambs Times and Wisbech Standard.”
He accused the Lib Dem opposition of preparing for an “unedifying spectacle” as they organise a petition against the rise and plan to force a fresh vote at the council’s December meeting.
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Cllr Clarke said: “Worse, it now seems that we are to repeat the unedifying spectacle of debating our own allowances again in December because 14 Lib Dems are calling for the decision to be rescinded.
“Why did they not engage in the debate? This is weak, opportunist behaviour from a group that has no policies and sees opposing everything, good or bad, as effective politics. It is not. In a recent press release for Kilian Bourke to claim they had ‘firmly opposed’ is hypocrisy at best.
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“Remember, it was my duty to table the motion and to speak to it in a positive way. “All the party leaders wanted the allowances review. Democracy is served if effective councillors are elected which is why it is my responsibility to help remove as many barriers to that as possible.
“The current allowance scheme is one of them.”
Cllr Clarke defended the council’s handling of the allowances panel and claimed the rules are set down nationally about four yearly reviews.
“As the leader it falls to me to table the report to enable it to be debated what ever my thoughts on the matter, on behalf of the council,” he said.
“The trouble about voting your own allowances is that people feel awkward about it and it can seem to the outside world that we are self serving. The trouble is that is the system. I am sure we will all be looking to see if anything can be improved before the next review in 4 years time. Yes, we do it all again every four years.”
He added: “I believe that recommendations from an independent panel should be accepted in full unless there is a very significant error.”
Cllr Clarke says currently allowances are right at the bottom when compared to other county councils and he had heard “this is not a good time” to review them.
He said: “Can someone tell me when would be a good time? I am inclined not to make such judgements but to stick to the rules in this case and carry out the review every four years as we are supposed to. Please all feel free to lobby government to change things.
“I have heard much about the 25% increase in the basic allowance. Or of course those that want to inform the debate could say just under �2000 before deductions. Or to put it another way �9500 for approximately 2.5 days work a week.
“But I guess if you want to make a sensation out of a small number percentages sound much bigger.”
Lib Dem group leader Cllr Kilian Bourke said: “We will fight to over turn these allowances.” He said a petition to oppose them had been launched on Saturday at the Eastern Region Lib Dem conference in Cambridge.
To sign the petition go to:
To read Cllr Clarke’s full blog on his position go to: http://nickclarkeconservative.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/members-allowances/