Devon County Councillors vote to hike their own expenses by 15 per cent

Devon County Hall, where councillors have voted to increase their personal allowances by 15 per cent

Devon County Hall, where councillors have voted to increase their personal allowances by 15 per cent. - Credit: Archant

Devon County Councillors have voted to give themselves a 15 per cent hike in their allowances, potentially spending an extra £98,000 of taxpayers’ money a year.

The basic allowance councillors can claim has risen from £10,970 a year to £12,607. During the authority’s latest council meeting, members argued that there hadn’t been a rise for nine years.

Members said the increase was needed to attract a more diverse, inclusive and representative council with more candidates of a working age, of both genders – better reflecting society.

Currently, there are 60 county councillors, 52 of whom are over the age of 50, while 15 are over 70. There are just three councillors under 40 and none under 30.

The meeting was told that councillors often ended up out of pocket compared to how they would fare if they were in full-time employment, and that the expenses did not cover the costs of living.

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Members were given a free vote on the issue and all but the Liberal Democrats voted in favour of the rise. The Lib Dems wanted to delay the rise until after the county elections in May 2021.

Lib Dem leader Cllr Alan Connett said no-one disagreed with the proposals but the money was not in the budget and putting the allowances up straight away would not change anything in terms of the diversity of the council.

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Cllr Rob Hannaford, the Labour group’s leader, said: “Being a councillor is an honour and a privilege and people don’t go into it for their own personal gain.

“The current data speaks for itself. We have no members under 30 and we regularly struggle to keep women with school age children for more than one term.

“Many members must take decisions to go from full-time to part-time, not do overtime at work, lose out of pensions, or go self-employed to fulfil their council duties.”

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Stuart Hughes said he often worked more than 70 hours a week and was on-call around the clock.

He said councillors did not even get minimum wage but that was the life he chose to represent Sidmouth.

He said “When there has been snow or flooding I have ended up spending all night in County Hall – I don’t think people realise how much we put in.”

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