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Extraordinary meeting called over council allowances
A CHRISTMAS Eve meeting of all councillors is to be held by Wiltshire Council to discuss the increases in members’ allowances.
The extraordinary meeting of the full council was requested by five independent councillors under the terms of the council’s constitution.
They have remained angry since November when members voted in favour of recommendations made by the Independent Remuneration Panel to boost council leader Cllr Jane Scott's allowances by 36 per cent a year from £37,335 to £52,227.
Cabinet members' allowances were also increased by at least 22 per cent, rising from £15,101 to £18,433 a year, while councillors' basic allowances went up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.
The council made 250 staff redundant earlier in the year.
The move prompted business consultant Paul Gaunt to set up a petition calling for Cllr Scott and her cabinet to resign, which has received more than 2,400 signatures.
However, the timing of the meeting – on Christmas Eve - has now been criticised by two of the Independent members.
Cllr Jeff Osborn said: “This is being done just to rubbish what is a perfectly valid constitutional request.” Cllr Terry Chivers said: “It could be alleged that the ruling Conservatives have called the meeting on this day in the hope that some members may be away for Christmas and that they can bury the bad news over the Christmas holidays.”
In their formal request the five independents wrote that “The object of the meeting is to rescind the decision previously made to increase members’ allowances by up to 36 per cent.”
But the five members – who include Helen Osborn, Chris Caswill and Ernie Clark – have also been criticised by the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council. Cllr Jon Hubbard said they were “throwing their toys out of the cot” and should have waited for a debate on the allowances set for February.
He said he did not approve of the allowances increases, but arranging the meeting at short notice would cost tens of thousands of pounds.
He said: “This is an example of all that is bad about politicians.”
Last week, Cllr Scott broke her silence on the allowances’ issue, saying new ways of working “put an awful lot of pressure on all of us, both members and officers”.
She said compared with other councils, Wiltshire had allowances that were relatively small, given the level of responsibility.
She said of the remuneration panel: “They wanted to make it right, not for me, but for the people who come after me.”
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