At July’s County Council meeting Kent's Conservatives voted to increase councillor allowances by 15%, a staggering ten times the amount recommended by the independent Panel. The vote came just two months after the County Council elections in May.
The Liberal Democrat and other opposition councillors voted against the proposal as did one Conservative. Nine Conservative councillors also abstained.
Earlier in the debate the Conservative councillors set aside the Liberal Democrat proposal that councillors should follow the advice of the independent Member Remuneration Panel which had recommended a modest 1.5% rise.
This increase is coming at the same time as the County Council is being forced to cut services and will cost Kent taxpayers just under £250,000 a year. It came within a few days of Kent’s schoolteachers and many other public-sector staff being told that yet again their pay rises will be capped at 1%.
Rob Bird, the Leader of Kent's Liberal Democrats, commented after the vote, "It is hard to accept that councillors can dismiss the independent Panel's recommendations and vote themselves a massive 15% increase. Whatever the arguments are for increasing allowances, this should have been undertaken before the recent elections not just two months afterwards.
“When we put ourselves forward for election in May, we knew what allowances Kent’s county councillors could expect. Furthermore, many Conservative councillors had previously stated that the existing allowance levels were appropriate. Kent’s councillors were already amongst the best paid in the country.
“In the real world very few people set their own pay, so why should Kent’s Conservative councillors? This cannot be right.
“Ultimately, Kent's electors and tax-payers will be the judge and jury; they are not likely to be impressed.”
To watch the debate in County Hall and hear the contributions from the Liberal Democrat councillors click here.