HUGE increases in senior Wiltshire councillors’ allowances could be slashed at a special meeting on February 4.
The meeting has been called after a group of ten opposition members formally requested a debate on the big increases for the Leader and Cabinet of the Conservative administration, which were voted through in November. Two of the ten members have also tabled a motion recommending the decision to increase allowances be reversed.
Their moves follow the controversy about the increase in Cabinet members’ allowances, which were boosted by at least 22 per cent, with council leader Cllr Jane Scott pocketing an increase of 37 per cent – taking her total allowances to £52,227. Councillors’ basic allowances went up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.
The increases followed recommendations from an Independent Remuneration Panel and were backdated to May.
Cllr Jeff Osborn, an Independent councillor who asked for the special meeting and submitted the notice of motion, said it was good news that it would go ahead after the previous “fiasco” when the meeting had been scheduled for Christmas Eve and was then cancelled.
Cllr Osborn said: “Our action was in response to considerable urging from all sections of the county population, including many long-standing Conservatives.”
He said the “grabbing behaviour” of Conservatives had brought county politics to a historic low and he hoped there would be no increases for at least a year.
In a statement last month, Cllr Scott said the increases had been justified and allowances at Wiltshire had got out of step with levels of responsibility. She said: “We are working in a more efficient way, but that does put an awful lot of pressure on all of us, both members and officers in the organisation, to deliver.”
During the summer, the council ran a voluntary redundancy programme in which 252 frontline staff left the organisation.
Seven of the council’s 18 associate directors took voluntary redundancy, while the remaining associate directors saw their wages rise on average by 7.5 per cent.