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Mayor quits over allowances rise
A MAYOR is to quit the Conservative party after accusing senior Wiltshire councillors of feathering their own nests, while a petition calling for the resignation of the Cabinet approaches 2,000 signatures.
Christopher Franklin, the Mayor of Tidworth, has written to Devizes MP Claire Perry to tell her he will not be renewing his Conservative party membership because he is so disgusted with Wiltshire Council Cabinet members awarding themselves big increases in allowances.
He said the move was insensitive to the hundreds of council employees who have been made redundant.
Council leader Jane Scott’s £15,000 per year increase in allowances was more than some people earn in a year, he said.
The increase brings Cllr Scott’s total allowances to more than £52,000 per year, which covers her positions as council leader and chairman of the health and wellbeing board.
Other Cabinet members were voted increases of at least 22 per cent, from £15,101 to £18,433 a year.
Cllr Scott has declined to answer her critics personally, preferring to rely on a statement issued by the council.
Cllr Franklin said: “You have Conservative Wiltshire councillors who have taken the mickey and give the impression of being out for themselves when, as a public body, you sometimes have to make sacrifices yourself to meet the needs of others – not feather your own nest.
“That’s what they have done.
They have feathered their own nest.”
He said Wiltshire Council had done well to save several millions from its budget, but was now spoiling it by spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on increased allowances.
The decision to increase allowances last month came only weeks after 252 council staff were made redundant, and as all council employees faced a one per cent pay freeze. The Wiltshire Council statement said it was not appropriate for Cllr Scott to comment.
It said: “This was a decision made by full council and will impact on every Wiltshire councillor, regardless of their political party.
“Allowances are allocated to the posts and not the councillors who currently hold those positions.
“A councillor can choose to accept or not accept the increase in allowance.”
A Conservative party member for two years, Cllr Franklin has been involved in local politics since 1996 and has been Mayor of Tidworth three times.
He said the whole affair made people doubt the sincerity of councillors, but he declined to join calls for Cllr Scott and her Cabinet to resign. Instead, they should turn down the increases and apologise, he said.
Lionel Grundy, chairman of Devizes Conservative Association, said it would be regrettable if Cllr Franklin decided to quit the party over the allowances issue, over which the local association had no say. He added: “I will be sorry if he decides to go.”
More than 1,900 people have signed a petition calling for Cllr Scott and her Cabinet to resign over the increases in allowances.
Paul Gaunt, a business consultant from Broughton Gifford, set up the online petition and has been shocked by the response.
He said: “The emails I am getting are saying they agree something needs to happen, and this is a step too far in these current austere times.”
Mr Gaunt’s petition can be found at wehavesolutions.co.uk.
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