Cutting allowances to opposition council leaders a ‘slap in the face’

Lib Dem leader at the county council James Walsh

Lib Dem leader at the county council James Walsh

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Slashing allowances paid to opposition leaders at County Hall is ‘a slap in the face’, according to the Liberal Democrats.

The special responsibility allowance (SRA) for most West Sussex County Council cabinet members is due to rise from £19,506 to £20,265, while the leaders’ allowance is set to be increased from £31,362 to £31,664 from next May.

However the leaders of UKIP, Lib Dem, and Labour groups are set to see their SRA cut from £14,361 to £10,226.

The proposed changes, put forward by an independent remuneration panel, were approved by the council’s Governance Committee on Monday (November 28).

James Walsh (LDem, Littlehampton East), leader of the Lib Dem group, described the decision as ‘outrageous’.

He added: “The workload for opposition leaders has gone up, and is still rising, in exactly the same way as for Cabinet members, who also have the luxury of a huge paid staff to assist them in their work.

“Opposition members have virtually no such assistance. I know that I put in huge amount of work into holding the ruling Tory group to account in a constructive way.

“This proposed reduction is effectively a slap in the face to all opposition members across West Sussex.

“The ruling Tory group ensures that most of their group of 44 members are paid extra allowances on top of their basic allowance of £10,567, as cabinet members, committee chairmen, senior advisers, and advisers.

“Opposition members get extra allowances for just one member as group leader.

“It is fundamentally unbalanced, with most of the £1.15m being paid to the Tory members.”

Currently large minority party leaders receive £14,361 but three tiers are set to be introduced.

Minority party leaders with at least 15 members would receive £12,490, leaders with five to 14 members would be paid £10,226, and leaders with three or four members would be given £4,072.

Chairmen of the main committees receive £8,935, senior advisors to a cabinet member are paid £4,847 but this is due to rise to £5,294, while advisors to cabinet members are given £3,406.

According to the panel’s report the entire package of measures is set to reduce overall expenses costs by around £30,000 to a total of around £1.1m a year.

Currently councillors can claim 49.26p per mile for travel expenses when using their own vehicle, but the IRP suggested the county council adopts the HMRC published mileage rate for cars, which is 45p per mile. For motorcycles it would be 24p a mile and 20p per mile for private bicycles.

Meanwhile the basic allowance paid to all county councillors is due to rise from £11,251 a year to £11,414.

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