Councillors cost taxpayers nearly �3m
COUNCILLORS in Suffolk cost taxpayers nearly �3million last year in allowances and expenses - an inflation-busting 9.4% increase on the previous year.The figures, described as 'alarming' and 'unacceptable' by the Taxpayers' Alliance, reveal a variation of more than �2,000 per councillor between neighbouring authorities Babergh and St Edmundsbury, while the highest increase in pay was awarded by Suffolk Coastal.
COUNCILLORS in Suffolk cost taxpayers nearly �3million last year in allowances and expenses - an inflation-busting 9.4% increase on the previous year.
The figures, described as 'alarming' and 'unacceptable' by the Taxpayers' Alliance, reveal a variation of more than �2,000 per councillor between neighbouring authorities Babergh and St Edmundsbury, while the highest increase in pay was awarded by Suffolk Coastal.
The bill for Suffolk county council's 75 members topped �1.093million in 2008-9, after the basic pay rose �7 a week to �9,687.60.
Leader Jeremy Pembroke saw his special responsibility allowance rise from �23,310 in 2007-08 to �24,219.12 in 2008-09, and his travelling expenses rose by �200. These sums were paid in addition to the basic.
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Cabinet members on the county council last year received an extra �14,531.40, an increase of �600 over the previous year. Labour opposition leader Julian Swainson had his responsibility payment increased from �9,790.20 to �10,172.04.
In St Edmundsbury, the basic allowance rose from �4,995 to �5,118. Leader John Griffiths was paid an additional �10,236 last year, up from �9,990 and his travelling expenses rose by �300.
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Ray Herring, leader of Suffolk Coastal, defended the increases for his council's members, which had been implemented following the recommendation of the independent panel about the 'appropriate level' of allowances.
'This increase was a one-off and the first since 2003, and brought us in line with the average for other shire district councils in the country,' said Mr Herring. 'Our allowances will now rise only in line with any pay increases agreed nationally for council employees.
'Given our record of success at Suffolk Coastal, which includes being �3.75 million more efficient than other similar-sized councils, I think our councillors are, along with this council, providing good value for money for our residents, who when surveyed last year ranked this council as the best in Suffolk.'
Councillors in St Edmundsbury used to receive free council-purchased broadband lines, but the system is being phased out. A spokesman for the council said: 'Since the 2007 borough elections it has been council policy for new councillors to provide their own connections, for which an allowance of �15 a month is paid.'
Jane Storey, deputy leader of Suffolk County Council, said: 'Councillors collectively take decisions which affect the lives of everybody who lives, works or visits Suffolk and have an overarching responsibility for the work of the County Council - its strategies, policies and how it performs.
'Being a councillor is both a rewarding and demanding form of public service. As a councillor, you are in a position to make a real difference to the quality of people's daily lives and prospects. Being an effective councillor requires a huge commitment and a lot of hard work.'
Matthew Elliott, chief executive at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'These figures paint an alarming picture: at a time when the rest of the country is struggling in the recession, councillors are enjoying better pay and perks than ever.
'It's totally unacceptable for these allowances to keep rising - if anything they should be coming down to free up more money to help taxpayers weather the economic storm.'
Mr Elliott added: 'Councillors need to realise that their position is about public service, not personal enrichment.'
Authority 2007-08 2008-09 Number of councillors
SCC 1,071,414.16 1,093,675.82 75
Ipswich 255,679 266,956 48
St Edmundsbury 312,266 316,945 45
Suffolk Coastal 238,400 366,000* 55
Forest Heath 165,000 186,000 27
Mid Suffolk 219,000 250,000 40
Babergh 200,000 216,000 43
Waveney 264,000 288,000 48
Total 2,725,759.16 2,983576.82 381