Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is planning to increase its share of the Council Tax – by a referendum dodging 1.9%. Where is the money going? One item is a sharp increase in the Special Responsibility Allowance for the council leader, Cllr David Jukes. Sometimes when this sort of thing happens there is the that it is a recommendation of an independent panel. Not in this case. The hike that the council leader and Cabinet members are planning to give themselves is higher than the amount the panel proposed.
The Ken and Sussex Courier report:
The increases are proposed for the Council A council advisory board, which Mr Jukes sits on, rejected proposals by the Independent Remuneration Panel for him to receive a £2,186 rise and instead opted for a £2,500 hike. Members also said cabinet members should receive £2,010 extra – or 22 per cent – rather than the £478 suggested.
There is some good news. The total budget is not rising as there have also been some savings. The council says: "There are now only five Cabinet members rather than six as the Leader has continued to be responsible for his portfolio without the need for another Cabinet member; this has saved £8,990. The abolition of the Standards Committee has saved £5,600; The decision to pay all mileage allowances at the HMRC official rate also saved a further £6,000. Following a review of the governance arrangements and the running of Cabinet Advisory Boards it is further proposed to reduce the two planning committees to just one which will further save £7,320."
The problem is that if other council spending is being cut then so should councillor allowances – not merely frozen. The amount paid to the council leader and cabinet members should not be increasing at all – even if the total allowances budget was falling. The council leader's pay is symbolic. Increasing it, especially at this time, shows the wrong attitude. In these circumstances Cllr Jukes and his colleagues have no credibility knocking on doors trying to explain why there is "no alternative" to a Council Tax rise.
Cllr Jukes and his colleagues should think again. They should abandon the proposed Council Tax rise by finding further savings – starting with their allowances.