Councillors have defended a decision to push ahead with a 10 per cent hike in their allowances – despite a last-minute bid by opposition members to reverse the proposal.
In December, Norfolk county councillors voted by 39 votes to 26 to increase their basic allowance, from £9,401 to £10,500 a year – a rise of 10.5 per cent.
This prompted outcry from taxpayers and opposition councillors, who called on the Conservative-led authority to reverse the decision.
At a meeting in Norwich on Monday, a motion to scrap the move was defeated by 36 votes to 28, meaning the increase will go ahead.
Speaking after the meeting, Keith Kiddie, county councillor for Diss and Roydon, who voted in favour of the move, said: “Everybody accepts there is never a good time for politicians to reorganise allowances.
“The vote before Christmas went through the full democratic process and it was brought back by the opposition parties, which is their right.
the allowance gives more people the ability to become a councillor. It’s a huge commitment and the allowance alone isn’t enough for councillors to live onCllr Keither Kiddie
“I don’t think anybody took this decision lightly and there were big discussions beforehand to see if there was support for the rise. It was explained where the money was coming from and where it was in the budget.”
He added allowances allowed a cross section of people to become councillors and dedicate more time to their duties rather than employment.
“It is an allowance, not a salary,” he said. “In the past, the only people who were councillors had an independent income.
“Things have now changed and the allowance gives more people the ability to become a councillor. It’s a huge commitment and the allowance alone isn’t enough for councillors to live on.
“The timing is always difficult, but everybody agrees allowances need to be looked at and there needs to be a fundamental review.
“Leaving it for a couple of years would have resulted in a bigger rise.”
Currently, it is up to councillors to vote on their allowances. Cllr Kiddie said he would have no issue if it was changed to an independent body to make the decision.
Alison Thomas, county councillor for Long Stratton, told the Diss Express: “If this second meeting on the allowances was a complete one-off, given the additional cost and inconvenience to everybody in having to revisit a decision, it might be one thing, but, if we have a second meeting every time people don’t like the decision, we’re going to hold up democracy.
Cllr Thomas said she believes the debate “may have been politically motivated”.
She added: “The issue of allowances is a difficult one because its one that the council has to vote on itself, which is highly unusual.”
“I think a lot of the public don’t realise we are not employed, so we don’t have the benefits of being employees. I’ve worked as a councillor since 2007 and, alongside being deputy leader, it is a full-time commitment and one that I take seriously.”