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Cambridgeshire county Labour leader questions rise in Tory allowances amid cuts

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Shire Hall, Cambridge . Picture Keith Heppell
Shire Hall, Cambridge . Picture Keith Heppell

As the county council considers cuts to services, such as children's centres and libraries, county Labour leader Joan Whitehead has hit out at the Tories' decision to increase the amount some councillors are remunerated.

She said that as there is no money available in the current budget to pay for the increase, 74 per cent of which goes to Tory councillors, it can only be achieved by taking money from frontline services.

Cllr Whitehead said: “The Conservatives are going to cost us over £150,000 more and it’s going in their own pockets.

“They ignored the independent review that was set up to give advice, the council staff have an imposed one per cent pay rise cap so the Tories should not be giving themselves far more than that, and they are also making cuts to services.”

Council leader Cllr Steve Count said that county councillors in Cambridgeshire had for a number of years been the lowest paid in the country and even now give just under a third of their time up for free.

His allowances increased to £42,060, which is £6,000 more than the independent panal recommended. Cllr Whitehead, as Labour lead, had her remuneration cut from £7,212 to £3,750.

He said: “When we decided that everything was flawed with the recommendation we had to decide how to get something that was fair.

“If we had picked my remuneration and Joan’s individually and come up with numbers a lot of people would have said that that was gerrymandering and it was not a fair to do it. What we did was we took the UK average for counties.

“This is where Cllr Whitehead’s figure came from, just like mine did.

“Cambridgeshire has had the lowest paid county councillors for a number of years now and I think there were so many times when people said we can’t afford it, now isn’t the time, and we kept turning down these increases, even though they were recommended. Eventually we just said it got so out of hand that we can’t expect people to do this council work and give up the time necessary.

“There’s an expectation that you don’t become a councillor to do it as a job, that is where this element comes in.

“For me personally I do about 40-60 hours per week total. I also have a light role as a district councillor but 95 per cent of everything I do is county council work. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it, I really enjoy it. I think that I have good value for money and I’m doing a good job.”

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