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Wiltshire Council slammed for setting Christmas Eve showdown meeting
10:10am Tuesday 17th December 2013 in Wiltshire
Wiltshire Council has been slammed for scheduling an extraordinary meeting to discuss the controversial members’ allowance increases for Christmas Eve.
The Independent Political Group contacted the council’s chairman, Wiltshire Councillor Christine Crisp, with the request.
The meeting is due to take place at County Hall, in Trowbridge, at 9.30am, on Tuesday when the venue was due to be closed and council staff were supposed to be on holiday.
Jeff Osborn, Wiltshire councillor from the Independent Political Group, said: “I must say that I am extremely surprised the council are saying that a decision has been made to call the meeting for Christmas Eve, especially as I understood that County Hall was officially closed on that day and staff will have to be brought in at considerable inconvenience.”
“At this time of year, the staff have got other things on their minds and I thought we would sit and have a sensible discussion and hold it on an appropriate date.”
The Independents believe that Wiltshire Council has been unconstitutional making the meeting public because they were yet to receive the five councillors’ signatures necessary to call an extraordinary meeting.
The group had looked to hold the meeting as they oppose Wiltshire Council’s decision, made during November’s full council meeting, which has seen Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott’s allowances increase by 36.5 per cent a year, taking them from £37,335 to £52,227.
Cabinet members’ allowances have increased by at least 22 per cent, rising from £15,101 to £18,433 a year, while councillors’ basic allowances has gone up by one per cent to £12,289 a year.
Wiltshire Councillor Ernie Clark, Independent Political Group leader, said: “This was always something we were looking to hold in the new year and never to the detriment of council staff who’d been given a holiday and may have made arrangements.”
The group still want the meeting to be held but on a different date in the new year. Under their constitution, for Wiltshire Council to overturn a decision made within the last six months and have it debated during an extraordinary meeting at least 10 councillors’ signatures are needed.
The allowance increase was proposed by the council’s Independent Remuneration Panel and was accepted following a recorded vote at the November meeting. A total of 53 councillors voted for the proposals, 28 were against and two abstained.
Last week, Cllr Scott finally agreed to be interviewed about the allowance increase after refusing to answer questions on the subject for over a month.
“We are working in a more efficient way, but that does put an awful lot of pressure on all of us, both members and officers in the organisation, to deliver,” she said.
“They (the remuneration panel) wanted to make it right, not for me, but for the people who come after me.”
During the summer, the council ran a voluntary redundancy programme in which 252 front-line staff decided to leave the organisation.
While, seven of the council's 18 associate directors took voluntary redundancy, while the remaining associate directors saw their wages rise on average by 7.5 per cent.
After the council agreed to the allowance increase outraged tax payer Paul Gaunt set-up a petition calling for Cllr Scott and her cabinet to resign. This has received over 2,500 signatures.
The allowance increase has also been slammed by Brandon Lewis, minister for local Government, who said they weren’t justified in the current economic climate.
To view the petition visit www.wehavesolutions.co.uk.
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