Residents’ views on Sidmouth councillor’s expenses

SIDMOUTH residents have backed their hard-working county councillor over his expenses and allowances.

But some townsfolk were surprised by the amounts of cash representatives receive, writes Charlie Lister.

Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council (DCC) cabinet member for Highways and Transportation, claimed �6,345.20 in mileage and subsistence expenses in 2010/11.

This was on top of a special responsibility allowance of �16,455 and basic allowance of �10,970.04 – amounts totalling �33,770.24.

Councillor Hughes said his DCC allowances were warranted due to his jurisdiction over 8,000 miles of road networks and a �100 million budget.

He added expenses were reimbursed to him - with �4,000, for items like petrol and food, claimed back after he initially spent the cash.

He said the other �2,000 was from a mileage allowance which doesn’t cover depreciation of and the servicing of his vehicle.

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Michael Bridgeman, 85, of Connaught Road, backed Cllr Hughes and said: “His parish is a very large one and he is entitled to recover the full amount that it has cost him to do his job to the best of his ability.”

Alison Shakeshaft, 65, from Sidbury, said: “I don’t begrudge Cllr Hughes that amount at all. Devon has an extremely large network of roads and he works extremely hard.”

Pat Rose, 75, from Manstone, agreed and added: “Mr Hughes is a genuine man.

“He is under a lot of pressure and does a lot of different things for his constituents. His expenses claim is comparatively little and broken down over 52 weeks, is actually very reasonable. He does do a very good job.”

There were some differences in local opinion. Tracy Burke, 48, from Manstone, felt that while Cllr Hughes ‘has a large amount of road to cover,’ the �6,345.20 claim seemed ‘a bit excessive.’

“It is a great deal of money,” she said. Jennifer Dickens, of Salcombe Hill, said public servants ‘shouldn’t be claiming anything like that amount.’

Mrs Dickens said: “The average working person doesn’t earn nearly as much money and manages to pay for all his or her own expenses.”

Vince Rodye, 68, of High Meadow, didn’t feel that Cllr Hughes should have claimed so much: “He has more than one job on the council and a large allowance, so I don’t think he should get that much back in expenses.”