Wednesday, 27 May 2009

'Snouts in the trough'?


So much has been said about MPs' expenses that I thought I would show how different it is for councillors.

In the last financial year I claimed a total of £223.66 (average 61p per day) from the St Edmundsbury Borough Council in expenses, 98% of which were for travelling. My journeys to meetings outside Bury St Edmunds by car or train included some as far away as Woodbridge, Ipswich, Haverhill and Mildenhall.

I am officially listed as also having attended 63 Borough Council meetings (more than any other councillor) but In fact I attend many more informal meetings, for example as a cabinet member, for which (like my visits to residents) I do not claim any travel cost. Yet I have to pay to park at West Suffolk House when I go to most meetings.

I also often cycle or walk to and from local meetings, thus saving public money.

I have attended countless Town Council meetings, for which no allowance, travel or other expenses are payable.

4 comments:

Daryl said...

Paul,

I had been wondering what the situation was like for local councillors.

It does seem a bit strange that you don't qualify for free parking at WS House when attending in your official capacity - why should you actually be out of pocket to do the job you've been elected to?

I guess getting the balance is quite difficult.

As a matter of interest, I notice that you've siad that you get no allowance for TC meetings, but are there allowances for BC meetings (& committees, etc, etc)?

Likewise for CC?

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

There used to be an allowance for BC meetings, but some years ago that was changed to an annual allowance for all councillors. This is set by an Independent Remuneration Panel (entirely made up of non-councillors/officers) and is currently £5,118 per annum.

Bury Boy said...

Paul if I understand correctly a BC receives £5118 for just being elected. A non active (lazy) person who does little for their ward, would get the same as an active one. The risk of not receiving this "fee" would be not being re elected every 3 or 4 years , that is unless they are beholden to a major political party.

On top of this there are expenses, and payments for offices held, chair person of this, that or the other.

Would all this cease if the commissions plans are adopted?

Councillor Paul Farmer said...

Well BB, you've started a whole new subject. My post was intended just to show that councillors' expenses are very basic, and really only apply to travelling or being away from home. I'm sure you get something similar in your own work.

I did this because some people lump together all politicians and assume we have similar 'perks' as MPs. In fact a few people have said to me on the doorstep words to the effect of "and what's in it for you?"

No one to my knowledge is criticising MPs for their salaries of £65,000 "just for being elected", plus of course all their office staff allowance. Unlike them I pay for my own telephone line and stamps, and Mrs F (bless her) does a stirling job as my 'secretary' (not paid out of any allowance). I also have to use one of my bedrooms as a study - for which I cannot claim any office furniture. It is then a struggle to get HMCR to allow any of this against the tax paid on my allowance.

People are not queuing up for election as local councillors, and anyone who does so for the allowance alone must be mad. They certainly wouldn't last very long, and six months' absence from meetings leads to the sack.

As for will allowances continue in any new regime, I am sure they will, if only to supplement councillors' phone bills, postage, travel expenses (the mileage rate payable is not much more than half the AA estimate)and leave enough to help pay for the job done.

If there were no allowances, only those who could afford to do without them would go into politics.