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Councillors roundly reject latest bid to put paid to controversial increases
6:00am Friday 7th February 2014 in Latest News
The latest bid to overturn the controversial allowance increases for Wiltshire councillors failed this week, after it was resoundingly rejected in a heated meeting.
Independent councillor Jeff Osborn had called for the decision to approve allowance rises for councillors to be scrapped, but 60 councillors voted in favour of keeping the rises, with 24 supporting his motion. Six councillors abstained from voting in the meeting, which went on for over two hours on Tuesday.
In November an independent panel recommended increases of one per cent for all councillors, from £12,176 to £12,289, and 22 per cent for cabinet members, from £15,101 to £18,433.
As leader of the Conservative group and chair of the health and wellbeing committee, Council Leader Jane Scott was in line for a 36 per cent increase, from £37,337 to £52,227, which she confirmed last month she would be returning.
However, at the meeting she spoke strongly in favour of keeping the rise for other members.
She said: “I did make this decision after a long night of soul-searching. It was being person- alised to me, and this council was suffering seriously.
“However, I will not vote to rescind that decision, that decision is correct for this council. It was a decision made by this council democratically, with good, strong evidence from an independent panel.
“Many councillors have never taken allowances, and that is their personal decision.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jon Hubbard abstained in the final vote, but spoke strongly in defence of the increase.
He said: “I am a net beneficiary from this increase in salaries because I am chair of two committees of this council.
“I work on average somewhere between 50 and 55 hours per week. I am in council three days a week from 8.30am to 6.30pm, and I spend weekends out in my ward with my constituents. All this I do as a councillor and I do it with pleasure.
“Today we have seen some councillors having their day who care more about headlines than hard work. Now that’s over, can the rest of us get on with doing the real work at council.”
After the meeting Cllr Osborne said: “We will fight on; I and others will be meeting over the next few days to decide our next move. If Jane Scott thinks she has won the day, she should watch this space.”
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