CRITICISM continues to be levelled at Wiltshire councillors who last week voted to increase their allowances.
Just weeks after making 252 council staff redundant, the leader of the council, Jane Scott, will see an increase of her allowances, giving her an extra £14,892 a year and bringing her salary to £52,227 and covering her position as leader of the council and chairman of the health and wellbeing board.
Wiltshire Council’s cabinet members’ allowances will increase from £15,101 a year to £18,433 and all councillors will have an increase in their basic allowance of £122 a year to £12,289 a year.
The rise is to be backdated to the May elections, when the Conservatives retained control of the council.
The increases of allowances were recommended by Wiltshire Council’s Independent Remuneration Panel at a full council meeting on 12th November, being passed by 53 to 28 and two abstentions.
Amendments opposing the increases, put forward by Liberal Democrat and Independent members, were defeated.
Councillor Jon Hubbard, leader of the Wiltshire Liberal Democrats said, “It is outrageous that we have seen today the Conservative leadership at Wiltshire Council receive a massive pay rise just after they have made hundreds of staff redundant. 22% for cabinet members and an unbelievable 36.5% rise for the leader.
“Time after time today we saw backbench councillors try to stop the massive rises for the Top Tories, and time after time we saw the Tories vote to block these efforts.”
Independent councillor Terry Chivers said, “So much for we are all in this together, yes we have seen the staff and backbench councillors capped to 1%, then we see senior staff receive massive pay increases, now we see the Conservative “Magic Circle” award themselves up to a 37% increase.
“What sort of message is this going to send out to the public, and the hardworking staff of the council, that are struggling to make ends meet?”
A petition is now calling for the resignation of the leader and cabinet of Wiltshire Council, and is online at http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/resignation-of-leader-and-cabinet-of-wiltshire-council
The petition says, “We… state that we have no confidence in Wiltshire Council’s Leader and Cabinet and call for their resignation.
“During the summer, the council ran a voluntary redundancy programme in which 252 front-line staff decided to leave the organisation.
“Seven of the council’s 18 associate directors took voluntary redundancy. The remaining associate directors have seen their wages rise by 7.5 per cent, on average.
“The rises for those at the top come at the time when front line staff are seeing their numbers reduced, duties increased and minimal pay rises.
“This is to the detriment of services and shows a total disregard for service users, the front-line and back office staff at the council, as well as the council tax and business rate payers of the county of Wiltshire.”
The Taxpayers Alliance political director, Jonathan Isaby stated, “At a time when the council has had to make necessary savings, shedding several hundred staff and freezing pay for others, it is outrageous in the extreme that councillors have voted to increase their own allowances.
“The last thing hard-pressed Wiltshire families deserve is for their elected representatives to be taking home more taxpayers’ money for themselves. Regardless of the independence of the panel that came up with these proposals, Wiltshire councillors should have rejected them. How can the county’s leading councillors retain the moral authority to oversee the necessary savings in the years ahead after taking these inflation-busting rises?”