Kent taxpayers fund £1.7m splurge on allowances and expenses for county councillors
PUBLISHED: 15:34 03 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:55 03 October 2017
The figure is down on 2015/16 but is set to increase next year after members voted for a 15% pay rise earlier this summer
Some £1.7m of taxpayers’ money was spent on allowances and expenses for county councillors last year, it has emerged.
The total spend on members’ basic wage, plus various costs including public transport and a casual user allowance, came to £1,744,978 for the year between April 2016 and March 2017.
A report issued to KCC’s Selection and Member Services Committee reveals the spend is down by more than £22,000 on the 2015/16 figures.
However, despite the number of councillors being reduced from 84 to 81 following a boundary review ahead of May’s election, that total is expected to rise substantially next year after councillors controversially voted to increase their basic allowance by some 15 per cent earlier this summer.
Opposition members branded the hike “disgraceful” and “preposterous” at the time, with Conservative councillor Jeremy Kite also expressing concerns, leading to him abstaining during the vote.
Defending the hike, council leader Paul Carter said members’ pay “hadn’t reflected the cost of living increases and pay increases that everybody else has had, except us”.
According to last year’s accounts, Cllr Carter took home the basic allowance of £12,805, plus a £42,109 special responsibility allowance - more than any other member on the council - while also racking up some £2,366 in expenses.
Fellow Conservative Roger Gough, who is KCC’s cabinet member for education, produced the largest individual expenses bill with a spend of £4,888 on top of his total allowances of £40,176.
The report also reveals nine councillors declared spending on taxis during 2016/17, with former deputy leader Alex King, who no longer has a seat at County Hall, racking up a total spend of £3,370.40 - almost double the spend of the other eight combined.
The release of the figures comes just days after Cllr Carter warned much relied-on services across the county face an imminent “day of reckoning” if central government does not provide additional funding, as the council starts putting together its budget for next year.
“So far we’ve always said at budget-setting day that we’ve broadly protected frontline services and there have been no significant detrimental cuts in our budget, but next year is enormously worrying that we will not be able to say that,” he told a cabinet meeting.
“I’m sure we’ll find a way of balancing this year’s budget, but the big problem is setting a sensible, intelligent budget for next year and the year after.
“The elastic is absolutely at its breaking point now and you can’t do the impossible.”