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Sparks fly at County Hall as KCC councillors vote to give themselves 15% pay rise

PUBLISHED: 14:00 13 July 2017 | UPDATED: 14:15 13 July 2017

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Opposition members called it “preposterous” and one Conservative councillor voted against his own party

A vote to increase councillors’ allowances by a staggering 15 per cent has been slammed as “preposterous” by opposition members.

In a report by Kent County Council’s member remuneration panel, a rise of 1.5 per cent was proposed, which would see councillors pick up £13,000 compared to £12,805 which they are currently paid.

However, Conservative members instead called for a rise of £1,920, in a move which sparked fury across the chamber.

The argument put forward by Tory councillors was that a hike was needed to attract younger candidates, in order to bring more diversity to County Hall and challenge the perception that councillors are all “men over the age of 65”.

They also insisted the role of a councillor could not be considered ‘part-time’, as it required many members to pull weeks of at least 30 hours.

Opposition councillors, however, disputed the proposal, with Labour’s Tan Dhesi describing it as “preposterous”.

Fellow Labour councillor, Dara Farrell, the youngest member at County Hall, said he “cannot look my neighbours in the eye and say I voted for an increase in my pay”, while leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition, Rob Bird, said “it is wrong and it will be seen by the people of Kent as wrong”.

Trudy Dean of the Lib Dems added: “This is a disgraceful move – a 15 per cent increase without a word to the electorate before they went out to vote for them.”

The move was so controversial, it even caused Conservative councillor Jeremy Kite to vote against his own party, as he told colleagues: “[The public] will not understand that we are able to set our remuneration level and set it like this.”

Despite Cllr Kite’s rebellion, the Tories still won the vote comfortably, after securing a huge chamber majority following the local election in May.

Council leader Paul Carter said: “Why should we have to tolerate a freeze on the allowances that were set in 2008?

“It hasn’t reflected the cost of living increases and pay increases that everybody else has had, except us.”

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