Taxes may be going up and services cut, but Norfolk county councillors have voted to give themselves a pay rise of more than 10 per cent.
The increase, which will be backdated to May, was approved at a meeting in Norwich yesterday, despite an independent panel recommending a freeze on the payments.
And the measure was passed by 39 votes to 26, largely with the support of members of the ruling Conservative group, despite widespread fury among opposition members.
One of them described it as “dirty money”, after several earlier motions calling for action to protect frontline services were voted down.
Labour councillor Terry Jermy said: “We have no money for children’s centres, PCSOs and buses, but we’ve got money for ourselves. It’s disgraceful.”
But Dersingham councillor Stuart Dark criticised the “statements” of critics and said members should listen to the justification for the rise instead.
Under the proposals, a councillor’s basic allowance will rise from £9,401 a year to £10,500, an increase of around 10.5 per cent.
The measures will also include a near 13 per cent increase in the package given to the council’s leader, Cliff Jordan, taking his allowances to nearly £32,000 a year. All the increases will be backdated to May 15 this year.
And, overall, the package will cost taxpayers more than £140,000, at a time when the authority says it needs to save £125 million from its budget over the next four years and is consulting on plans to raise its portion of council tax by nearly five per cent next year.
Council leader Cliff Jordan insisted the measure would be funded by an underspend in the existing budget for members’ allowances and was intended to “right the wrong” that payments made to Norfolk’s councillors were well below those made to councillors in other counties.
He said: “In the end, you’ll get to the point where people can’t afford to do the job they were elected to do.”
But Liberal Democrat Dan Roper said he was “aghast” that the proposal had been brought forward at all.
Labour leader Steve Morphew said he didn’t see how the ruling Conservative administration could retain any credibility with the public over the proposals, which it was pointed out are not part of the current budget consultation.
Emma Corlett added: “It’s insulting to do this at a time when services are being cut.
“It stinks. I can’t believe you’ve brought this to us at all and certainly not at this time.”
But deputy leader Alison Thomas said she was now unable to pursue her previous career as a reflexologist because of the amount of time she had to dedicate to council business.
She said: “If we want a diverse group of people in this chamber, we need to recognise they have to be renumerated.”
The independent panel had also called for a full review of the process through which members’ allowances are calculated to take place next year, with its findings being implemented in 2019.
However, members accepted a further Conservative amendment to postpone the review for a further two years, with any new rules to come into force following the next scheduled county elections in 2021.